News / USA

Cash Can Beat Food Aid in Combating Hunger, Study Says

(File) A Palestinian girl walks past sacks of flour food aid from the United Nations and USAID at the Shatie refugee camp in Gaza City.
(File) A Palestinian girl walks past sacks of flour food aid from the United Nations and USAID at the Shatie refugee camp in Gaza City.
TEXT SIZE - +
Cash can be more effective than food aid when it comes to reaching hungry people, according to a new study.

The finding comes as the U.S. Congress considers the law governing its $2 billion food aid budget.

However, the study authors find there is no right way to deliver aid, and say flexibility is key.

Since the 1950s, U.S. food aid has helped more than 3 billion people in more than 150 countries, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). That aid comes largely in the form of U.S. commodity crops like corn, soybeans and vegetable oil.

It’s a point of pride for the farmers and food processors who make it, and they have been strong supporters of the program. But food is often available locally at a lower cost than shipping it across the ocean.

Critics say what people really need in a crisis is money to buy their own food. That’s why European donors support cash and local purchase more than food aid.

Search for evidence

Both sides claim they’re right, says economist John Hoddinott at the International Food Policy Research Institute, but neither has much evidence to back them up.

“What we wanted to do was bring evidence and facts to bear on this debate,” Hoddinott said.

So, Hoddinott and colleagues at the World Food Program studied aid projects in four very different countries: Ecuador, Uganda, Niger, and Yemen.

In each project, beneficiaries received either cash or food of the same value. The researchers studied both the quantity of food, measured in calories, and the quality and diversity of the diet the recipients ate. They also calculated the cost of delivering the aid.

They found that cash was cheaper to provide than food, which saves more than just money.  

“It would only be a slight exaggeration to say we’re also talking about saving lives,” Hoddinott said.

If the projects used only cash or vouchers, an additional 32,000 people could have been fed, approximately 15 percent of the total.

However, Hoddinott stressed, “We want to be very clear: the results of our study do not say that you should always provide cash.”

Shopping options

It really depends on what the program is trying to achieve.

When the researchers looked at the impacts of cash compared to food aid on the amount of calories and dietary diversity, Hoddinott said, “What really jumped out at us was the variation in effects.”

In Ecuador, for example, the people who received food aid got more calories but a less diverse diet that those who received cash or vouchers. But the opposite was true in Niger. Those who received cash ate more calories but a less diverse diet.

That’s because “fundamentally, context matters,” Hoddinott said.

The project in Ecuador served Columbian refugees in urban areas with well-stocked markets where food was available for beneficiaries to buy.

“What they needed was the resources," Hoddinott said. "Hence, the cash and vouchers work well in that environment."

By contrast, the project in Niger served very poor people in rural areas where the markets did not have much more than staple grains available.

“People who got cash basically went out and bought lots of grains,” Hoddinott said.

Food aid, on the other hand, included grains, lentils and cooking oil. “That meant their diet became more diversified than households that got the cash and were just basically stocking up on staples.”

Hoddinott says aid programs need to have an understanding of the fundamental goal of their intervention because that will affect which method to choose.

"Both the U.S. and the [European Union] would benefit from a more flexible approach to food assistance,” he said.

'All the tools in the toolbox'

The U.S. spent about $200 million on cash and vouchers last year, out of a roughly $2 billion budget. Congress is considering legislation that would allow slightly more flexibility.

U.S. farmers, shippers, food processors and some aid groups have opposed more significant changes to U.S. food aid policy.

Paul Green, a consultant for the North American Millers Association, agrees that every food insecurity problem is different, and “the study reinforces the need for all the tools in the toolbox.” He also believes current U.S. foreign aid programs provide adequate flexibility for emergency response.   

Other aid groups see it differently.

“This study further underscores our call for reform of current food aid programs to make them more flexible and allow for more tailored responses,” said Eric Munoz of the aid group Oxfam.

The legislation is part of the much larger Farm Bill. House and Senate negotiators begin hammering out the differences in their versions this week.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid