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POLICY November 2008


Global Food Crisis
While fully addressing the problem will take time and extensive collaboration, the
Increases in food U.S. should actively support the first Millennium Development Goal, a global initia-
prices are pushing tive that aims to halve the number of individuals suffering from chronic hunger and
over 100 million
malnutrition. The U.S. must use its leadership to strengthen partnerships among
more people into
food insecurity. all stakeholders and urge other governments to adopt policies that create national
Lack of reliable social safety nets to help the poor better cope with shocks.
access to food
causes involuntary
migration, the
breakup of families, • Double the U.S. annual commitment to food relief programs to at least $3.2 billion.
and greater Funding for these programs (food aid, school feeding and child/maternal health,
vulnerability overall.
nutrition) must be more flexible to meet the needs of the poor, and should include
Widespread hunger
and malnourishment funding for food vouchers, cash for work, and local cash purchase of food aid;
threatens global • When possible, buy locally. Increase resources for flexible cash assistance,
development and which can be used to purchase food supplies locally and regionally. The FY09
political stability, Supplemental Appropriations Bill provided an additional $795 million to address
and harms the the food crisis, with over 50% directed to cash programs including local and
poorest and most
regional purchase;
vulnerable of the
world’s people, • The U.S. Government should invest $750 million in FY10 to meet urgent needs in
especially women agricultural development, focusing on assistance to small-scale farmers (especially
and children. women) through programs that provide seeds, training, equipment, and farm
credit; and
• Review the negative impacts of U.S. agricultural subsidies and quotas on food
security and prices in low income countries; and urge developing countries to
end food export barriers.

The international community will be better prepared to deal with future shocks and
1400 16th Street, NW price increases. Fully-funded childhood nutrition programs will prevent over 3.5
Suite 210 million childhood deaths annually, substantially reducing the number of children
Washington, DC 20036
with permanent cognitive damage and lifelong illnesses. Women and children freed
202-667-8227 from food insecurity will be less likely to drop out of school or turn to unsafe income
generating activities such as prostitution or child labor.
Food prices have been rising since the early 2000s,
and most sharply since 2006. According to the International
Monetary Fund, a ton of wheat that cost $105 in January
2000 cost $481 in March 2008. In one year (March 2007 to
March 2008), the price of corn increased by 31%, rice by 74%,
soya by 87%, and wheat by 130%.
Some of the forces driving the current food price crisis in-
clude: the all time high cost of oil; natural disasters/drought;
a global increase in demand for meat, milk, and grain to feed
livestock; an increase in the use of grains to produce biofuels;
and ongoing agricultural subsidies in developed countries.
The crisis is also a consequence of the neglect of agricul-
ture. For the last 20 years, donors and many recipient gov-
ernments have made low and declining investments in ag-
riculture. In 1980, 30% of annual World Bank lending went
to agricultural projects; in 2007 it was only 12%. In develop-
ing countries, agriculture spending as a share of total public
spending fell by 50% between 1980 and 2004. U.S. foreign
assistance for agriculture has dropped from a high of 20% in
1980 to 6.0% in 1995 to 2.5% in 2006.
Rising food prices erode the purchasing power of poor
people, many of whom already spend most of their income
on food, and causes a significant increase in food insecurity
across the globe. Even before the recent sharp increase in
food prices, over 850 million people faced hunger and food
insecurity and 177 million children are chronically mal-
nourished. Another two billion people suffer from nutrient
deficiencies. Lack of access to food at affordable prices has
prompted violent protests worldwide in over two dozen
countries and has led to the overthrow of several govern-
ments. Further destabilization can be expected unless food
needs are met.
The U.S., along with almost every other nation in the
world, signed a commitment to meet the Millennium Devel-
opment Goals (MDGs), including MDG 1 which commits sig-
natories to cutting world hunger in half by 2015 (from 1990
levels). Unless immediate and substantial steps are taken by
the U.S. government, along with other donors and partner
organizations, the goal will not be attained, and millions of
people will continue to suffer the consequences of hunger
and malnutrition.
The current crisis in global food prices presents an oppor-
tunity for the U.S. to demonstrate leadership and to craft an
integrated, coordinated approach to tackling the symptoms
– and underlying causes – of chronic hunger. Emergency
food assistance addresses the immediate need of popula-
tions in dire situations but it alone cannot pull us out of the
crisis of chronic hunger.
POLICY November 2008


Contributors to Food Crisis Policy Brief
Organization URL
Save the Children
U.S. Fund for Unicef
World Concern
Oxfam America
Catholic Relief Services
Episcopal Relief and Development
World Vision
International Medical Corps
Jesuit Refugee Services USA

InterAction Food Crisis Working Group

Organization URL
Action Against Hunger
Action Aid
Adventist Development and Relief Agency
Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A.
Alliance to End Hunger
American Red Cross
Bread for the World
Catholic Relief Services
Christian Children’s Fund
Church World Service
Congressional Hunger Center
Episcopal Relief and Development
Food for the Hungry
International Medical Corps
1400 16th Street, NW
International Relief & Development
Suite 210
Washington, DC 20036
International Rescue Committee
Islamic Relief USA Jesuit Refugee Services USA
Joint Aid Management
Lutheran World Relief Mercy Corps
InterAction Food Crisis Working Group (cont)

Organization URL

Oxfam America
Save the Children
The Hunger Project
U.S. Fund for UNICEF
Women Thrive
World Concern
World Vision