The U.N. World Food Program has appealed for food aid to become a priority and come before infrastructure projects that do not provide sustenance to the hungry. The agency says deliveries of food aid around the world dropped by 30 percent last year, but the number of hungry continues to rise.

After seeing a significant decline in global food aid figures in 2004 the Rome-based World Food Program (WFP) says it's time for a Food First Policy.

The agency says the amount of food aid dropped from 10.3 million tons in 2003 to 7.5 million tons last year. WFP spokesman Robin Lodge says this does not mean that donors have become less generous.

"The problem is that commodity prices have risen very sharply over the last few years as have the costs of transport and this is really the main cause of the slide," said Robin Lodge.

Mr. Lodge added that in the last few years the drop in the U.S. dollar which is generally the currency in which food aid is measured has further exacerbated the problem. While donations continue to be made and have even increased, the dollar is just not buying as much food aid as it used to.

"If we take the figure over the last five years we are looking at a 50-percent decline which is even more serious, we are talking about half as much food for a significantly growing number of hungry people in the world," he said.

He says donors have to dig deeper into their pockets to match the figures. But the U.S. Ambassador to U.N. based agencies in Rome, Tony Hall, says this is not easy for countries that have given large amounts for food aid.

"The United States has already given $800 million to the World Food Program so far this year and that is a lot of money and the year is not up," said Tony Hall. "We have a long way to go and a lot more crises to work on."

The Ambassador and the WFP say people are very generous when it comes to high-profile disasters like the Asian tsunami, but it becomes difficult to attract donor funds in countries where there are long drawn-out crises and where hunger is caused by poverty.

Ambassador Hall says donor nations need to understand that food crises in many countries, particularly in Africa, are not going to suddenly disappear.

"There are still major countries out there that are hurting, you know, like in Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Congo, etc," he said. "And so a lot of donor nations need to step up."

The WFP says the international community has pledged to halve the proportion of the world's hungry by 2015. Unless the decline in global food aid is reversed, the agency says, that goal will not be achieved.