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Understanding food assistance

Global hunger has been increasing rapidly since 2018, leading hundreds of millions of people into the largest food crisis in modern history. Conflict, weather extremes and economic instability aggravated by the pandemic and the ripple effects of the crisis in Ukraine, along with other compounding drivers, have worsened hunger for as many as 828 million around the world. The number of those facing acute food insecurity has soared from 135 million to 345 million since 2019. A total of 50 million people in 45 countries are teetering on the edge of famine.

Canada’s actions to reduce world hunger

Humanitarian food and nutrition assistance is a short-term solution that responds to the immediate needs of affected populations, particularly refugees and displaced people. Canada’s humanitarian food and nutrition assistance funding aims to provide life-saving services that support outcomes such as:

In 2022, Canada allocated more than $615 million for humanitarian food and nutrition assistance.

Development food assistance is the supply of food to vulnerable people through national or sub-national food or safety-net programs, such as school feeding or nutrition support, to ensure they have a source of food that provides adequate calories and nutrition.

Canada’s partners in reducing hunger

Canada supports the efforts of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency, to address global hunger and the urgent needs of vulnerable populations. In 2021, with Canadian help, the WFP reached 128.2 million people in more than 80 countries. It also provided nutritious meals, school snacks and take-home rations to 15.5 million children in 57 countries.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank provides food assistance, such as grains, as well as agricultural supplies and cash. It also provides development assistance to people in need on behalf of 15 Canadian church-based member agencies. The bank is Canada’s primary NGO involved in food assistance and is a recognized centre of expertise in food assistance and food security.

As a founding partner of Nutrition International, Canada promotes supplements, such as Vitamin A and iodine. Each year Nutrition International reaches 500 million people in over 70 countries to ensure vulnerable populations get the vitamins and minerals they need to survive.

Canada also allocates funding to NGO partners who provide nutrition-focused programming along with complementary interventions in WASH and health that support nutrition outcomes.

Cost-effective and efficient food assistance

In line with international recommendations and best practices, Canada’s food assistance has been fully “untied” (giving the funding recipient the freedom to procure goods and services from any country) and in grant form (unconditional transfer payment) since the 2012 to 2013 fiscal year. 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:

Agriculture is an effective tool in poverty reduction

In many developing countries, particularly those in Africa and Asia, small-scale farmers produce 80% of the food consumed. The majority of these farmers are women. If these women can grow enough sustainable crops to sell a surplus after feeding their families, they can 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. Sustainable agriculture investments include those that:

Research and development

The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global food production must increase as much as 70% by 2050 to keep pace with demand. Investments in agricultural research and development are essential if this goal is to be met.

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:

With better access to new technologies and specialized expertise, farmers in partner countries will be in a better position to keep pace with the growing demand for food.

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