International Food Assistance


Now that I’m back at school I remembered that I do actually like and care about something other than eating! Hard to believe, right?

In case you’re a new reader, I’m interested in global food security.  I started this blog to combine my passion for healthy living and international issues.  Recently, I’ve been slacking on the food security end of the blog.  In the past, I’ve written about the causes of food security (four parts) and the environment.  If you click the tag “Food Security” on the right sidebar, you’ll find all my food security related posts to date.

Image from Google Images

Today, since the recent crisis in Haiti, I thought it would be a good idea to give a little history of global food assistance and little introduction to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Before the establishment of an international organization (i.e. the United Nations), food assistance was distributed from one nation to another (bilaterally).

The United States, since the 1950s, is the largest donor of food aid through Public Law 480 Title I (P.L. 480), now known as Food for Peace managed by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Food being sent abroad by USAID (from Google Images)

P.L. 480 began as a scheme to relieve some of the surplus agricultural products produced in the US.  This assistance from the US government comes in three forms:

  1. Trade and Development Assistance:  “government-to-government sales of U.S. agricultural commodities to developing countries on credit or grant terms.”
  2. Emergency and Private Assistance: “the donation of U.S. agricultural commodities to meet emergency and nonemergency food needs in other countries, including support for food security goals.”
  3. Food for Development initiative (recently inactive):  “government-to-government grants to support long-term growth in the least developed countries. Donated commodities are sold in the recipient country, and the revenue generated is used to support economic development programs.”[1]

Bilateral food assistance proved to not be the most effective solution to food insecurity as it depends on surpluses in donor nations and generally serves the interest of the donor nation.  I don’t mean this as a judgment of the US or any other nation that provides food assistance, but it makes sense that you donate what you have extra of.  You don’t produce specifically to give away.

The result of food programs like P.L. 480 was the “dumping” of agricultural products into the markets of developing nations, undercutting local producers (since this food was free or cost next to nothing) and creating more poverty and food insecurity in the long run.

Therefore, an unbiased organization was needed to deal with issues of food assistance…

This is where the United Nations comes in…

Next time: United Nations involvement in global food security and the formation of the World Food Programme!

Please don’t be shy!  Let me know if you think this is interesting!  What do you think of food assistance at home or abroad? Is there anything you’d like to know more about?


[1] USDA: Foreign Agriculture Service. “Public Law 480, Title I.” http://www.fas.usda.gov/excredits/foodaid/pl480/pl480.asp


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11 thoughts on “International Food Assistance

  1. Jill says:

    Just caught up on all your great posts about food security. Very Interesting. It made me think. What would it be like to swap places with a person in an underdeveloped country and eat what they do in a day. Compared to us, this experiment would be staggering! Very thought provoking!

  2. Jessica@Healthy Exposures says:

    I definitely find this interesting! To be honest – and I by no means intend for this to come across as rude – I’ve never really given a thought to food security, but you have definitely sparked my curiosity, and am appreciative that you broke my ignorance of the subject! I can’t wait for future posts with more on the subject.

    • Karla says:

      I definitely don’t think your comment is at all rude. I would really like to inform people about this subject. I think a lot of people simply don’t think about it, and honestly if I wasn’t in the field I’m in probably wouldn’t either. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment!

  3. Lauren says:

    Very detailed info on food security. I feel that I’ve somewhat sidestepped my political involvement now that I’ve voted with my pocketbook, by eating only from my CSA basket and local market, all organic, all local, free range, etc. I TOTALLY SUPPORT YOU GIRLFRIEND!!!!

  4. Karin says:

    Great post, thanks! I didn’t know much about how this all went (probably because I didn’t care.. because I don’t live in the USA ;)) but it’s really interesting to read how the United Nations got involved.

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