Quick Facts

Did you know?

  • Approximately 795 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 USAID doing?

  • Approximately three billion people have benefited from USAID’s food assistance programs.
  • Over the course of its 60+ years of operation, USAID’s food assistance programs have operated in more than 150 countries.
  • 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 FY 2016, USAID provided over $2.8 billion in emergency and development food assistance to the poorest corners of the world.  Contributions included more than 2.2 million metric tons of in-kind food and local and regionally procured commodities as well as cash transfers and food vouchers. 
  • USAID's food assistance program focuses predominately on women and children, with nutrition programs targeted to assure adequate nourishment to children under age two. Absent adequate nutrition during this critical period, children will be stunted and suffer from permanent mental and physical impairments.
  • USAID has four 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 and American private voluntary organizations to implement emergency response and development programs.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Where do USAID’s commodities come from?
A: The commodities that USAID sends around the world come from virtually every state in the United States as well as from local and regional markets abroad.

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

Q: Do you have any mechanism for monitoring potential future famines or food security crises?
A: Yes. USAID developed a Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) which provides warning of food assistance needs six months in the future.  These predictions are critical because of the time required to purchase and ship in-kind food aid from the United States.

Q: How long does it take for food aid to reach those who need it?
A: It takes about three months for bulk commodities such as corn or wheat to reach their destination and approximately six months for processed commodities such as corn soy blend and vegetable oil to reach their destination from the U.S.  Additionally, food purchased locally and regionally can get 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 emergency bars 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’s primary source of funding for food assistance programs comes from Title II of the Food for Peace Act.  This funding is for both emergency responses and development programs.  Additionally, USAID uses International Disaster Assistance funds for its Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). This program supports local and regional procurement of commodities, cash transfers, and food vouchers. 

Q: Does U.S. food assistance disrupt local markets?
A: No. Prior to providing food assistance, USAID conducts a Bellmon Analysis. The Bellmon Analysis is conducted in each target country to determine if there are adequate storage facilities available in the recipient country to prevent the spoilage or waste of food aid commodities, that the importation of the commodity will not result in substantial disincentive to or interference with domestic production or marketing in that country, and that food aid commodity importation and use of local currencies for development purposes will not have a disruptive impact on farmers or local economies.  


For more information about USAID’s food assistance programs, please visit:

Related Sectors of Work