Food Assistance

Reducing world hunger

Worldwide, nearly 795 million people do not have access to good quality food in adequate quantities as a result of conflicts, natural disasters or chronic poverty.

Canada assists these vulnerable people by funding two types of food assistance:

  • Emergency food assistance—A short-term response to address the immediate dietary and nutritional needs of populations, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons, affected by natural disasters, crises or conflicts.
  • Food assistance in development contexts—A medium-to-long-term response to help vulnerable people develop and enhance livelihoods and become self-reliant—all essential for sustainable development.

Increasing food security is one of Canada's three international development priority themes. Supported by the Government of Canada's commitment announced at the 2009 G-8 Summit, the food security strategy has three paths:

In November 2012, Canada ratified the new Food Assistance Convention.

Canadian funding for food assistance is distributed through two primary channels: the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. In October 2011, Canada announced that it had increased its support for global food security through these two organizations, by $350 million. This contribution will help Canada deliver on its objectives related to food security over five years.

World Food Programme Logo
The World Food Programme (WFP) is the world's largest humanitarian agency. In 2012, WFP fed more than 97.2 million people in 80 countries and allowed 24.7 million children to take part in school feeding initiatives. Canada is WFP's third largest donor country, contributing $383 million.
Stalks of wheat

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank provides food assistance (cash, grain, and other agricultural commodities) and development assistance to people in need on behalf of 15 Canadian church-based member agencies. It is Canada's primary non-governmental organization involved in food assistance and is a recognized centre of expertise in food assistance and food security. In 2011-2012, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, supported by funding from Canada, distributed 40,849 tonnes of food and seeds to 2.2 million beneficiaries in 36 countries.

"As we are at a critical time in the fight against hunger, Canadian's investment and leadership in effective global action is not only saving lives but helping break the circle of hunger and malnutrition."

— Josette Sheeran, Executive Director, WFP
October 26, 2011

Untying food assistance

As recently as 2007, more than half of Canadian food assistance to developing countries had to be bought in Canada. Known as tied aid, it was neither cost effective nor efficient. Tied aid undermines the ability of farmers in developing countries to produce or buy goods for themselves and delays assistance from reaching the people who so desperately need it.

In 2008, Canada fully untied its food assistance budget, opening 100 percent of its food assistance budget to international procurement and supporting the purchase of food in developing countries.

Given the ongoing unprecedented prices for food and fuel, providing Canadian partners with the flexibility to purchase commodities locally and regionally greatly minimizes shipping costs and helps bring more food to more people.

By lifting restrictions on where food is bought, Canada promotes the development of local and regional markets and, more importantly, increases the speed, efficiency and effectiveness of Canadian food assistance.

"Our member agencies, global partners, and supporters across the country are deeply appreciative of this continued support. It enables us to reach many more people with food and other assistance and to do so in a timely way. The long-standing partnership with CIDA allowed us to respond to the food crisis in East Africa long before it was in the news and will enable us to continue providing assistance during the recovery process long after the news cameras are turned off."

— Jim Cornelius, Executive Director, Canadian Foodgrains Bank
October 26, 2011