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Bipartisan bill to bring American hunger relief programs into 21st century

By Oxfam

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Oxfam applauds proposal from Senator Corker (R-TN) and Senator Coons (D-DE).

Washington, D.C.-Leading Senators from both parties have joined together to push for common sense changes to international food aid programs that would help save millions more lives while protecting taxpayer dollars. The Food for Peace Reform Act, introduced by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), would slash red tape and add much-needed flexibility that would enable the US Agency for International Development to reach up to 9 million additional people with lifesaving aid at no additional cost to taxpayers.

Oxfam applauds proposal from Senator Corker (R-TN) and Senator Coons (D-DE).

“The Food for Peace Reform Act will bring international food aid programs into the 21st century,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “We applaud Senators Corker and Coons for introducing legislation that will bring long-overdue change to our international food aid programs.”

The Food for Peace program was originally created in 1954 and has not been substantially updated since. Minor reforms were made in the 2014 Farm Bill to begin to shift how US food aid is delivered. More ambitious changes nearly passed the House of Representatives with strong support from both parties. This bill would build on progress achieved in the Farm Bill by empowering USAID to use modern tools that have been proven to cut costs, speed up delivery, and increase the number of people reached.

For example if food is not available locally because of drought, aid agencies can ship food from the most cost effective location where it can be purchased. In some cases this would include shipping food from the United States. In other cases when food is available locally or in the region, but people facing war or other crises cannot afford it, USAID and its partners could buy food locally or distribute secure vouchers so parents can purchase enough food to feed their children.

“When the Food for Peace Act was first passed Americans were still using the rotary telephone,” said Offenheiser. “Now we can deliver life-saving aid to people via text message. The world has changed and our food aid programs need to change with it.”   

A 2007 Government Accountability Office study found that because of existing outdated rules, US food aid shipments can take four to six months starting the day an NGO places an order for a specific commodity until the food can be procured shipped and distributed in the recipient country. During urgent crises these delays can mean life or death. With a growing number of crises around the world and volatile food and fuel prices stressing aid budgets, it is imperative to maximize flexibility to ensure tax dollars get a bigger bang for their buck.

The Food for Peace Reform Act would maintain the objectives of the original program and protect core structures while allowing USAID the flexibility it needs to meet increasing demand.

“Amid fierce budget debates, members of both parties are looking for ways to get more for our tax dollars,” said Offenheiser. “This bill does exactly that, and saves lives in the process.”