Food Fight: How International Aid Fails the Poor
Beckmann, David, The Christian Century
IN 2006, THE UNITED STATES provided 6 million tons of food aid to agencies such as CARE, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and Save the Children, which distributed the bags of wheat, rice or corn and containers of vegetable oil. Some of the aid went to places wracked by war or natural disaster, where it directly alleviated human suffering. In other places, children suffering from acute malnutrition were brought back to full health with the help of specially fortified food. Sometimes entire families were able to survive a lean season.
Given these and other positive results, why would any agency reject U.S. food aid?
Yet that's exactly what CARE did last July, when officials announced that beginning in 2009, CARE will forgo $45 million a year in U.S. food aid. The organization based its decision on disagreement with a practice known as monetization, the process of selling some of the U.S. food abroad in order to raise needed cash for development projects and administrative costs. Although monetization is a common and necessary practice, CARE maintains that the sale of this food in the fragile markets of recipient countries competes with the sale of food produced by local farmers, causing prices to drop and lowering farmers' income. After careful study, CARE has determined that the benefits of monetization are simply not worth the costs: it will no longer accept those donations of U.S. food aid that are intended for monetization (though it will continue to receive emergency U.S. food aid).
The long journey of food aid begins when the U.S. government purchases basic staples such as corn, rice and wheat (grown in Iowa, Texas and Nebraska), processes and packages the food in plants throughout the country and ships it from ports in the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico and on the West Coast. Originally food aid programs were seen as a way of disposing of large surplus food stocks owned by the federal …
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Publication information: Article title: Food Fight: How International Aid Fails the Poor. Contributors: Beckmann, David - Author. Magazine title: The Christian Century. Volume: 125. Issue: 8 Publication date: April 22, 2008. Page number: 20+. © 2009 The Christian Century Foundation. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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