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Global food security is an urgent problem, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Feed the Future, a U.S. government global food security initiative led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, aims to reduce global hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.
From 2014 through 2018, the U.S. and other donors spent an estimated $75 billion on global food security assistance. This included, for example, supplying seeds and fertilizer, providing food to crisis-affected people, addressing nutrient deficiencies, and providing school meals.
"Cargo preference" laws require agencies to ship half of U.S. food aid to a given geographic area on U.S. ships. The intent is to ensure a merchant marine—both ships and mariners—will be available to help the military when needed.
USAID spent about $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2016 on international food aid projects under the Food for Peace Act. These funds have traditionally been used to buy food in the United States and transport it abroad.
Sending cash and vouchers instead of food
Historically, the United States shipped most of its emergency food aid overseas. In recent years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has also provided cash or vouchers that recipients—such as Syrian refugees—can use to buy food.
What GAO Found Cargo preference for food aid (CPFA) requirements increased the overall cost of shipping food aid by an average of 23 percent, or $107 million, over what the cost would have been had CPFA requirements not been applied from April 2011 through fiscal year 2014.
What GAO Found The U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Bureau for Food Security administers the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program through implementing partners under 5-year cooperative agreements. USAID provides overall direction, but relies on partners to execute program activities.