World Food Day: U.S. Needs Food Policies That Feed People and Economies
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Chris Barrett is a professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University and author of an American Enterprise Institute paper on U.S. food assistance programs and the book Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role. In light of World Food Day on Wednesday, Barrett comments on how U.S. food aid should change to feed more people with less money.
“Only 40 cents of every U.S. taxpayer food aid dollar goes to commodity costs. By contrast, Canada spends 70 cents per dollar on food because it doesn’t have the same anti-competitive restrictions, especially the shipping restrictions.
“Imagine you want to send a gift of food to a friend who has fallen on hard times. You pick out some lovely food from your local market and then it costs you just as much to send it as it did to buy the food. Is that how you’d do it? I doubt it. You’d look to buy from a place near your friend that could deliver to them cheaply, or you’d send a gift card to a grocery or just send them a check. That logic holds for U.S. food aid too.
“Only places cut off by war or disasters like earthquakes or tsunamis that destroy transport infrastructure require deliveries. And those are still cheaper and quicker to source nearer than the U.S. in most cases.
“Donations still carry the same ‘gift of the American people’ markings on the product packaging. But it can be procured cheaper – more than 50 percent cheaper for basic grains and legumes like maize, beans and peas – delivered more than 60 percent faster and with lower risk of spoilage using more modern best practices than we had in the 1950-70s variant of U.S. food aid.”