Frequently Asked Questions

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Did you know?

  • Approximately 821 million people suffer from chronic hunger.
  • Hunger kills more people every year than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.
  • One in four children in the developing world are stunted.
  • One in six children in the developing world are underweight.

What is Impact of USAID Food Assistance?

  • More than four billion people have benefited from USAID’s food assistance programs and activities since 1954.
  • Over 60+ years, USAID’s food assistance programs and activities have operated in more than 150 countries.
  • Through USAID's Office of Food for Peace, USAID is the largest provider of food assistance in the world using both food grown in the U.S. and cash for more flexible programming abroad.
  • In fiscal year 2018, USAID provided over $3.7 billion in emergency and development food assistance to the poorest corners of the world. Contributions included nearly 2.5 million metric tons of U.S. in-kind food and local and regionally procured commodities, as well as cash transfers and food vouchers.
  • USAID's development food assistance activities focus predominantly on women and children, to ensure adequate nourishment of children under age 2.
  • USAID has five warehouse sites around the world where prepositioned food is ready to be moved at a moment's notice to respond to emergency needs.
  • USAID partners with the UN World Food Program (WFP) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and private voluntary organizations to implement emergency response and development programs.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What is the difference between food aid and food assistance?

A: Food aid refers to in-kind food commodities that are shipped from the United States to places in most need. Food assistance is a broader term that refers to both in-kind food commodities (i.e. food aid) as well as market-based activities that ultimately combat hunger and malnutrition. Read more in our USAID Food Assistance Overview Fact Sheet.

Q: Where do USAID’s food commodities come from?

A: The food commodities that USAID sends around the world come from many states in the United States as well as from local and regional markets abroad. Find a list of in-kind food commodities in our Food Aid Product Information.

Q: Is U.S. food assistance simply a way to get rid of surplus U.S. food commodities?

A: No. While U.S. food aid started out in the 1950s as a means to donate surplus U.S. commodities, the U.S. government moved away from this decades ago, and now purchases food from American farmers through a competitive process. We donate food based on an identified need, in close consultation with the host government requesting the assistance. We do not provide assistance when it is not requested.

Q: Are there signs of success in improved food security and where assistance is no longer needed?

A: Yes. Many countries that were among the first to receive U.S. food assistance are now major international donors and help the global community respond to emergency humanitarian needs, including South Korea, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Turkey, Poland, and the former Czechoslovakia.

Q: How do you predict and monitor future famines or food security crises?

A: USAID developed the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) which provides advanced warning of food assistance needs eight months out. These predictions are critical because of the time required to purchase and ship in-kind food aid from the United States. To classify the severity and magnitude of food insecurity in their monitored countries and regions, FEWS NET uses the globally-recognized Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) standardized tool. The IPC scale, which is comparable across countries, ranges from Minimal (IPC 1) to Famine (IPC 5).

Q: How long does it take for food aid to reach those who need it?

A: It takes about three to six months for food commodities to reach their destination from the U.S., depending on the type of commodity and how it is processed. For example, bulk food commodities such as sorghum and wheat take less time to reach hungry people than processed food commodities such as corn-soy blend. In times of urgency, we purchase food locally and regionally which gets food to hungry people 11-14 weeks faster.  

Q: Does USAID provide any specialty foods in addition to bulk and processed commodities?

A: Yes. USAID has a variety of specialized products – such as high energy biscuits or ready-to-use foods developed for supplementary and therapeutic feeding – to address immediate life-saving needs as well as chronic malnutrition.

Q: How are USAID’s food assistance programs funded?

A: USAID has two types of funding for food assistance programs: agriculture funds authorized through Title II of the Food for Peace Act, which is used for both emergency responses and development activities; and International Disaster Assistance funds to support local and regional procurement of commodities, cash transfers and food vouchers. Read more in our Food for Peace Funding Overview Fact Sheet.

Q: Does U.S. food assistance disrupt local markets?

A: No. Prior to providing food assistance, USAID conducts a Bellmon Analysis  in each target country to determine if it will disrupt their existing domestic production and local economies. USAID also ensures there are adequate storage facilities available in the recipient country to prevent the spoilage or waste of food aid commodities. Read completed Bellmon analyses for countries receiving Title II commodities.

Q: What is twinning?

A: Twinning is an initiative that pairs food contributions from governments receiving aid (host governments) with cash-based contributions from donors to ensure delivery and distribution of the food. Twinning is a cost-effective and timely response in contexts where host governments have grain or cereal reserves that can be matched with cash donations to cover associated costs.   

More information about USAID’s food assistance programs: