by Marion Nestle
Jul 2 2013

Question: What is the U.S. doing to help address world hunger?

Answer: plenty or not enough, depending on how you look at it.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has just released a report summarizing the present status of its activities: Feed the Future — Progress Report: Growing Innovation, Harvesting Results.

It also has released a scorecard for holding the agency accountable for what it does: Feed the Future — Progress Scorecard.

The report is written in government-speak and it’s hard to know what to make of it.

The government has met some of its promises, but not all.  One reason for the “not all” may be that only one-third of the nearly $4 billion pledged for reducing world hunger has actually been spent.

It’s not a coincidence that USAID released the report while President Obama is visiting countries in Africa, and while legislators are trying to figure out what to do about the fallout from not passing the farm bill.  The farm bill includes food aid programs.

Food aid, as I have discussed previously, is tied to domestic farm policy in a particularly inconvenient way: American surplus farm commodities have to be shipped on American carriers, something that takes time and benefits American producers and shippers perhaps more than it does recipient countries.

Can this situation be changed to increase the benefit to international partners?  Not likely with this Congress.



  • julie

    Seems to me that our food policy not only gets ride of excess commodities, to the benefit of our producers, but tends to set up systems in other countries so that local farmers don’t earn much for their [often much healthier] food, so they either export it to us (like couscous, coffee, pineapples, etc.), or they just stop growing it, and live off our overprocessed undernourishing diabetes-inducing “food”.

  • I really admire how US initiates programs that help address world hunger. Many third world countries benefited from this program and I hope superpower nations like China and Russia will do the same. Stop the arms race and focus on addressing climate change and world hunger.

  • julie

    I meant quinoa, not couscous – duh! It’s too bad US doesn’t initiate programs that address world hunger in ways that don’t just benefit US Corporations.

  • This is a pretty snazzy document. If I weren’t informed on the issue of GMOs, I may very well be taken in.
    Page 25 talks about genetically engineered fish – in this case it’s tilapia (in the U.S., we’re currently dealing with issue of GE salmon) – as a way to get fish into peoples’ mouths more quickly. Problem is they never say it’s genetically engineered, do they? On page 26 there’s a chart which shows crops I’m certain are grown from genetically modified seed. Nowhere in the document is the issue of GMOs addressed. As a matter of fact, it’s referred to as “improved technologies.”
    Proponents of GMOs – the biotech companies, Big Ag, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to name a few – say that they are the way to address the issue of world hunger. Yet there are many, many countries around the world that are against eating foods that have been tampered with in this fashion. Ms, Nestle, would you like to comment on this?

  • It’s a sad reality that there are people who experience hunger. This is the very reason why I teach my kids to waste not and want not when it comes to food.

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