As Prices Soar, U.S. Food Aid Buys Less

The United States has purchased less than half the amount of food aid this year that it did in 2000, according to new data from the Department of Agriculture.

“The people who are starving and have to rely on food aid, they will suffer,” Jean Ziegler, who reports to the United Nations on hunger and food issues.

“We fear the steady rise of food prices will hit those on the front lines of hunger the hardest,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program.

She warned that food aid spending would have to rise just to keep feeding the same number of people. But the appropriations bill for the coming year now moving through Congress does not promise any significant increases in the food aid budget.

The food aid declines may also continue. Catholic Relief Services, a major distributor of American food aid, has projected substantial increases in what the federal government pays for food aid next year. “It’s bad news and it’s not just going to affect U.S. food aid, but food aid from every source,” said Frank Orzechowski, a retired commodity trader who now advises Catholic Relief Services.

This year’s decline in food aid follows a period when the sharply escalating costs of shipping American-grown food aid to Africa and Asia already reduced the tonnage supplied. The United States Government Accountability Office mentioned this year that the number of people being fed by American food aid had declined to 70 million in 2006 from 105 million in 2002, mainly because of rising transportation and logistical costs.

[Excerpt of an article by Celia W. Dugger, The New York Times]

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