Food for Peace Program Saves Lives, But Could Be More Efficient

February 11, 2015

Takeaway Cover

The U.S. Food for Peace program has saved millions of lives around the world for more than a half century and has been perhaps the most powerful and visible symbol of American generosity to those in need, says Texas A&M University Executive Professor Andrew Natsios.

In a new issue of “The Takeaway,” published by the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Natsios says the issue now is how to make the program more efficient and deliver food faster, saving more lives and strengthening local economies in the process.

Natsios, director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School, is a former USAID administrator who managed reconstruction programs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan.

He says the U.S. Food for Peace aid program should have more flexibility to procure emergency food relief locally and regionally. That would make the program more cost-effective, greatly shorten delivery times and benefit local economies, especially those in need of an economic boost after a humanitarian crisis, he explains.

As it stands, most U.S. food aid is shipped from the States thousands of miles across the globe – a long, complex and expensive process, Natsios says.

“USAID estimates that local and regional food procurements cost 20 to 50 percent less and arrive 11 to 14 weeks sooner than U.S. exported food,” Natsios says. He notes that in the last 10 years, the Food for Peace program has spent more on transportation and handling costs than on the food itself. He adds that if the food aid reforms proposed in the FY 2015 and FY 2016 federal budgets were passed, as many as two million more people could receive food aid at the same cost.

He cautions that local food procurement is not always the best course and that “the decision on when to purchase locally versus sourcing food in the United States should be made in USAID by Food for Peace officers, not by law or by interest group pressure in the United States.”

In “The Takeaway,” Natsios contends that food aid reform is not a partisan issue, but one that has had strong support from both President Bush and President Obama as well as from Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug. Natsios states that, “Food aid is, first and foremost, an emergency response tool, not a subsidy for domestic economic interests.”

Food aid reform would have negligible impact on U.S. agriculture and has the potential to significantly aid the millions who rely on food aid to help them survive humanitarian crises, he concludes.

The full text of the article can be found at


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