Getting More Bang for the Buck from Food Aid
Bryan Riley /
Proposed changes to food aid programs would allow U.S. tax dollars to feed more people at a lower cost.
Representatives Ed Royce (R–CA) and Karen Bass (D–CA) recently proposed legislation that would remove counter-productive restrictions on the use of food-aid dollars while ending a wasteful process known as “monetization.”
Monetization occurs when the government donates U.S. food to charities instead of giving them dollars. These charitable organizations then sell the food in other countries and use the proceeds to fund development-related activities. The Government Accountability Office found that monetization programs wasted $219 million over a three-year period that otherwise could have been used to fight hunger or returned to taxpayers.
Royce and Bass’s bill would also remove mandates that force aid dollars to be used to purchase U.S.-grown food and shipped on U.S. vessels, even when there are more cost-efficient options available.
The legislation builds on a more modest proposal by the Obama Administration to modernize U.S. food aid programs and includes specific policy reforms that The Heritage Foundation has previously recommended.
Based on Obama Administration estimates, the proposal would enable the same funding to benefit 2 million to 4 million additional people around the world. Royce and Bass would take that a step further by removing entirely the legislative restrictions that increase costs and reduce the effectiveness of U.S. food assistance.
U.S. special interest groups whose funding might be threatened have expressed opposition even to the Administration’s modest reform proposals. But nothing the reforms suggested by the Obama Administration or Royce and Bass would prevent U.S. aid dollars from being spent on U.S. food and shipped on U.S. vessels, as long as that is the most affordable and best way to get food to the people who need it.
Freeing aid dollars to be used more efficiently is a bipartisan reform that Americans should embrace.