Key Issues > International Food Assistance
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International Food Assistance

U.S. food aid, a vital component of U.S. overseas humanitarian assistance and foreign policy, is particularly important given today’s environment of increasing frequency of emergencies and growing global food insecurity.

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The United States is the largest donor of international food assistance. It has recently spent about $2 billion per year to provide international food assistance to food-insecure countries—in both emergency food assistance to avert humanitarian crises and development  assistance to support agriculture and related sectors.

  • U.S. food aid provides crucial life-saving calories, but food rations designed for short-term food insecurity may not provide adequate nutrition during longer-term food emergencies.
  • The United States faces challenges in targeting specialized products designed for the most vulnerable groups, such as children under the age of 2, and maintaining quality controls throughout the supply chain.
  • Funding development projects through the purchase, shipment, and sale of U.S. commodities—a process known as monetization—is inefficient and can cause adverse market impacts.
  • Weaknesses in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’'s oversight of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program limit its ability to ensure that the program’s objectives are met.
  • The U.S. government has set goals to improve the effectiveness of U.S. food aid and reach global targets for reducing hunger and malnutrition, but agencies’ efforts have been fragmented and uncoordinated.

As shown in the figure below, we reported that the inefficiency of the monetization process  reduced funding available for development assistance projects by $219 million over a 3-year period.

Food Assistance Figure 1

Note: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) data are from transactions the agency reported between fiscal years 2008 and 2010.  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data are from transactions the agency reported between fiscal years 2007 and 2009.

Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

International Food Assistance:

Improved Targeting Would Help Enable USAID to Reach Vulnerable Groups
GAO-12-862:
Published: Sep 24, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 2012.

World Food Program:

Stronger Controls Needed in High-Risk Areas
GAO-12-790:
Published: Sep 13, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 13, 2012.

International Food Assistance:

Global Food Security:

U.S. Agencies Progressing on Governmentwide Strategy, but Approach Faces Several Vulnerabilities
GAO-10-352:
Published: Mar 11, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 2010.

International Food Assistance:

More Reports

International Food Aid:

Better Agency Collaboration Needed to Assess and Improve Emergency Food Aid Procurement System
GAO-14-22:
Published: Mar 26, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 2014.

International Food Aid:

Global Food Security:

USAID Is Improving Coordination but Needs to Require Systematic Assessments of Country-Level Risks
GAO-13-809:
Published: Sep 17, 2013. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 2013.

Global Food Security:

Agriculture and Food:

U.S. Assistance to Yemen:

Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Emergency Food Aid and Assess Security Assistance
GAO-13-310:
Published: Mar 20, 2013. Publicly Released: Mar 20, 2013.

International Food Assistance:

U.S. Nonemergency Food Aid Programs Have Similar Objectives but Some Planning Helps Limit Overlap
GAO-13-141R:
Published: Dec 12, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 12, 2012.

Farm Bill:

Issues to Consider for Reauthorization
GAO-12-338SP:
Published: Apr 24, 2012. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 2012.

U.S. Department of Agriculture:

More Effective Management and Performance Can Help Implementation of the Farm Bill
GAO-11-779T:
Published: Jun 23, 2011. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 2011.

International School Feeding:

USDA's Oversight of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program Needs Improvement
GAO-11-544:
Published: May 19, 2011. Publicly Released: May 19, 2011.
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  • portrait of Thomas Melito
    • Thomas Melito
    • Director, International Affairs and Trade
    • melitot@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-9601