Understanding food assistance
One in nine people around the world have too little to eat or are malnourished. That adds up to almost 800 million people.
Hunger and malnutrition degrade health and reduce resiliency to disease and shock. This means the world’s poorest people struggle the most to live long and healthy lives.
Our steps to reduce world hunger
Emergency food assistance is a short-term response to address the immediate needs of populations, particularly refugees and displaced people. Getting aid to people affected by natural disasters, crises or conflicts can take many forms:
- general food distribution
- provision and distribution of specialized nutritious foods for targeted populations, including young children and pregnant or lactating women
- school meals
- providing food or other benefits in exchange for work
Emergency food assistance can be provided through different ways, such as food, cash or vouchers. Cash and vouchers give greater dignity to beneficiaries as they can choose what food they wish to buy. A cash economy must be in place, with functioning local markets that can keep up with demand in order to support the use of cash and vouchers. Where these conditions cannot be met, direct distribution of food is more appropriate.
Ensuring humanitarian partners have the flexibility to shift between modalities enables them to tailor a response according to beneficiary need as well as the often-fluid context in which they are operating.
Development food assistance is a medium-to-long-term response to help vulnerable people develop and enhance their own income and become self-reliant. This aid is essential for sustainable development including:
- distributing tools, seeds and livestock
- providing training in agricultural techniques
- supporting school feeding programs
- nutritional support
- improving logistics to transport food
- supporting local markets
Our partners to reduce hunger
We support the efforts of world’s largest humanitarian agency the UN World Food Program (WFP) to wipe out hunger and poverty. With Canadian help the WFP has reached 97.2 million people in 80 countries. They also provided school meals to 24.7 million children in 60 countries.
The Canadian Foodgrains Bank provides food assistance like grains, agricultural supplies and cash. It also provides development assistance to people in need on behalf of 15 Canadian church-based member agencies. The Foodgrains Bank is Canada’s primary non-governmental organization involved in food assistance and is a recognized centre of expertise in food assistance and food security.
As a founding partner of the Nutrition international, Canada promotes supplements such as Vitamin A and iodine. Each year the Micronutrient Initiative reaches 500 million people in over 70 countries to ensure vulnerable populations get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive.
Cost effective and efficient food assistance
Canada has fully untied its food assistance budget. Before 2009 more than half of Canadian food assistance to developing countries from programming partners had to be bought in Canada. Untying food aid opens 100 % of our food assistance budget to international procurement. Purchasing food locally or regionally gets help to those who need it quickly, ensures food is culturally appropriate, and supports the functioning of local and regional economic markets.
The role of food assistance and nutrition
Our nutrition programming aims to save lives and improve overall health.
We support strategies to:
- include nutrition considerations into broader food security initiatives
- support multilateral organizations and national governments to increase micronutrient programming
- strengthen national and regional food reserves and food crisis alert and prevention systems
- addressing food insecurity through:
- emergency food assistance
- social safety nets
- nutrition intervention
Agriculture is an effective tool in poverty reduction
In many developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, small-scale farmers produce 80 % of the food consumed. The majority of these farmers are women. If women can grow enough sustainable crops to feed families and sell surplus they can in turn afford to educate their children.
Sustainable agriculture has a positive effect on the peace and security of families, communities and villages in the developing world. It is one of the most effective investments in reducing poverty and improving food security in a country. This includes support to:
- encourage effective governance particularly including women in tenure of their own land
- train small rural farmers to increase their agricultural production
- support livelihoods, nutrition, livestock knowledge
- increase resilience to help small-scale farms withstand shocks and reduce risk
- invest in infrastructure
- design better processes to provide stable local sources of nutritious food
Research and development
Estimates state global food production must increase as much as 70 % by 2050. Investments in agricultural research and development are essential if production is to keep pace with the increasing demand.
Canada is putting its considerable experience in agricultural research and development to use on a global scale by sharing knowledge and resources with developing countries:
- to increase the nutritional value of crops and improve crop resilience
- strengthen national and regional agricultural research systems
- ensure that research informs food security policies and programs
These measures will give farmers in partner countries better access to the new technologies and specialized expertise. Farming operations will be in a better position to keep pace with the growing demand for food.
- International Development Research Centre
- Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
- United Nations Food Assistance Convention London 2012
- World Food Programme
- Canadian Foodgrains Bank
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