Feeding the world’s poor through efficient markets: The future of US food-aid policy

At an AEI event on Wednesday, food-aid experts convened to discuss the future of US food-aid policy. Panelists broadly endorsed the Obama administration’s proposal to source food from local and regional markets when that is the fastest and most cost-efficient way to prevent hunger and malnutrition, and to continue to ship food from the United States when it is not.

USAID’s Nancy Lindborg detailed the structure of the proposal, indicating that the reforms would provide additional flexibility to meet specific nutrition needs much faster. Lindborg also noted that US-sourced food — to which 55 percent of funds would be dedicated— would continue to play a large role. Oxfam America’s Gawain Kripke endorsed the plan, suggesting that it allows USAID to respond in a faster and more targeted fashion while cutting down on program inefficiencies.

David Beckmann of Bread for the World emphasized that the Obama administration’s plan would provide more aid to more people without adding to the US deficit. He highlighted the fact that while Americans are committed to helping the poor, they are increasingly intolerant of policies that use large portions of taxpayer funding to cover transportation costs.

Michael Carter of the University of California, Davis, concluded the discussion by examining aid delivery from an economics perspective. He indicated that local and regional aid procurement cut an average of 14 weeks off of aid delivery times, which is especially crucial in the context of delivering aid to newborns and young children, who are particularly vulnerable during food crises.

Event Description

In its 2014 budget, the White House proposed an important change to US food aid policy: sourcing food from local and regional markets when that is the fastest and most cost-efficient way to prevent hunger and malnutrition, and continuing to ship food from the United States when it is not. The Obama administration has argued that this change would allow funds to be used in the most efficient way to feed to the world’s poorest families in times of crisis.

While some legislators and interest groups have opposed the proposed changes, arguing for the delivery of US-grown food in all cases, free-market economists and many foreign aid organizations have argued in favor of the Obama administration’s policy. Please join us for a panel discussion to examine this interesting coalition and to discuss the benefits and costs of the administration’s proposal in relation to current policy.