U.S. hopes to donate cash instead of food to anti-hunger efforts
About half of the cost of U.S. food aid comes in paying to haul the commodities from U.S. ports. As a rule, at least 75 percent of U.S. food aid must travel on U.S.-flagged vessel, which can drive up costs.
A 2012 Cornell University study said local purchase "can often afford valuable cost and times savings." Grain can cost half as much, it said, although processed foods sometimes cost more locally or offered smaller savings.
Aid Groups Divided
Care, Actionaid, American Jewish World Service and Church World Service join Oxfam in support of cash donation. But U.S. farm groups, shippers and aid groups such as World Vision, International Relief & Development and Planet Aid say food donation is a proven system that should be kept.
"Be wary of claims that great sums will be saved and recipients will be better served by shifting all food aid funds to a flexible cash account," said Ellen Levinson, speaking for a coalition that supports food donation.
Levinson said local purchase has its limits. Food may not be available in the quantity, quality or variety that is needed for massive food programs.
The administration may guarantee U.S.-produced food a share of the revamped program rather than totally end food donation, according to groups on each side of the debate.
Nearly two dozen senators and an array of farm, maritime and aid groups wrote the White House in February to oppose a change in policy. "Food aid programs have enjoyed bipartisan support for 60 years because they work," said one of the letters.