Food Aid:

Private Voluntary Organizations' Role In Distributing Food Aid

NSIAD-95-35: Published: Nov 23, 1994. Publicly Released: Nov 23, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on food aid granted by the United States to private voluntary organizations (PVO) to support development activities in foreign countries, focusing on the: (1) role of PVO in distributing food aid; and (2) impact of direct feeding programs on enhancing the long-term food security of recipient countries, including how well projects are targeted to people vulnerable to malnutrition and whether food-for-work projects significantly improve infrastructure.

GAO noted that: (1) PVOs, working with local governmental and nongovernmental organizations overseas, generally address food security at the community or individual level; (2) PVOs engage in: (a) food distribution (known as direct feeding projects), which provides immediate access to food; and (b) selling (monetizing) commodities to generate local currencies for other types of projects that address poverty, the primary cause of lack of food security; (3) PVOs have developed considerable expertise in handling food aid and have well-established distribution networks in developing countries that enable them to provide aid to remote areas; (4) their use of food aid is generally consistent with legislative requirements and objectives; (5) although some losses are still occurring, PVOs have taken steps to improve their management and accounting for title II commodities; (6) the impact of direct feeding projects on advancement toward national- or community-level food security is not clear; (7) economic, cultural, and environmental factors beyond the control of a PVO may hamper a nation's long-term food security; (8) at the community level, the long-term impact of direct feeding projects depends on the projects' design and implementation; (9) PVO and Agency for International Development (AID) evaluations of some specific direct feeding projects have shown some positive impacts on health, nutrition, and income generation at the community or individual level; (10) however, AID and the PVOs have not systematically collected relevant data or developed appropriate methodologies to assess the impact of food aid on food security; (11) according to AID, to do so, in some cases, would be cost prohibitive and extremely difficult; (12) PVOs have had difficulty targeting the most vulnerable populations, and some projects serve people who may not be the least food secure; and (13) food-for-work projects, usually directed at small, community-based infrastructure improvements, seem to have the potential for improving the community, as some beneficiaries reported significant improvements in their lives; however, some of the infrastructure projects GAO reviewed did not include plans for sustainability.

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