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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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