|Interagency Working Group on Food
March 2, 1998
U.S. Government efforts since the World Food Summit
Because of the broad scope of topics covered by food security issues, a significant portion of the United States Governments funds are invested annually in a diverse range of programs that have a direct or indirect impact on levels of food security. Many of the problems and issues being addressed involve commitments that began long before the World Food Summit in Rome in November of 1996. Principal among these are expenditures on domestic food assistance programs of about $40 billion annually and ongoing commitments to food aid and development assistance internationally.
Since the Summit, the United States Government has further strengthened its commitment to promoting both domestic and global food security through a broad range of initiatives involving both government and civil society. Some of these efforts are described below.
Food Security in the United States
Presidential action taken on food recovery and gleaning. In November 1996, President Clinton directed every federal agency to participate in an interagency group on food recovery which was chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Glickman. To facilitate and encourage food recovery and gleaning, the "Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation" bill was passed which eliminates liability on the part of those who donate food in good faith and nonprofit entities that distribute food. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Food Recovery and Gleaning Initiative which empowers states, localities, corporations, non-profit groups, and individuals to bolster grass-roots food recovery efforts by providing technical assistance, facilitating partnerships, and providing limited seed money. Capping these efforts, a National Summit on Food Recovery and Gleaning was held in Washington, D.C. in September 1997.
Crop and Livestock Production Study completed. In 1997, USDA, in association with the University of Tennessee, published a study entitled Crop and Livestock Technologies which provided key information on the potential of food supplies in the United States; it also addresses whether we can sustain and increase the rate of technological progress and agricultural yield increases made during the past six decades. The study examines the yield potential of major crops and livestock in the next fifty years, the limiting factors of these yield potentials, and technology which might overcome these limits.
Action Plan on Food Security being developed. To facilitate preparation of a U.S. Action Plan on Food Security, the Interagency Working Group on Food Security developed the "Discussion Paper on Domestic Food Security", drawing on national consultations held in May 1997. The Discussion Paper was released to the public in February 1998. The objective of the Action Plan is to provide a long-term blueprint for strengthening the contribution of the United States as a whole to the alleviation of food insecurity at home and abroad.
Food Security Advisory Committee established. A Food Security Advisory Committee (FSAC) has been established under the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD). Its first meeting was held in February 1998. The Committees members come from NGOs, academia, and private industry. The FSACs initial focus is to provide advice to the U.S. Government on the development of the U.S. Action Plan on Food Security. Its charter also calls for participation in the implementation of the Action Plan, and outreach to non-governmental sectors.
Food Safety Initiative launched. The President launched the Food Safety Initiative in 1997. This initiative calls for a nationwide early-warning system for food-borne illness, increased seafood safety inspections, and expanded food-safety research, training, and education. It also promotes further collaboration between public and private organizations, and improved coordination within the government.
USDA estimate of hunger in U.S. households released. In September 1997, the USDA released the Food Security Supplement to the Current Population Surveythe first comprehensive estimate of the extent of hunger in U.S. households. This survey is the cornerstone of a food security measurement project led by USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), with the involvement of academic and other private sector research experts. Standardized measures derived from this survey are currently being integrated into other national surveys to enable a better understanding of the determinants and health consequences of food insecurity.
Healthy People 2010 Initiative begun. The DHHS, in collaboration with USDA, has begun incorporating food security as one of the national health promotion and disease prevention objectives for the next decade. The Healthy People 2010 Initiative, building on two decades of national health goals, will define the critical health measures the U.S. must undertake to promote healthy behaviors, achieve improved health outcomes, reduce risk factors, and assure access to preventive strategies and health services that can improve the health of all Americans by 2010.
Aquaculture research expanded. In recognition of the contributions aquaculture can make to food security, the Department of Commerce established an Aquaculture Task Force. Additionally, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration established the position of Aquaculture Coordinator in the Office of Sustainable Fisheries and reassigned research staff to do research in aquaculture.
Research program on extramural food assistance being developed. USDAs Economic Research Service (ERS) is developing an Extramural Food Assistance Research Program focusing on the nutritional impacts of domestic food assistance programs, the impacts of welfare reform on low income households, the food and agricultural sector, and rural communities. ERS is also conducting research on the relationship between diet and health and the effectiveness of various interventions.
Food stamp benefits being restored. Recognizing the importance of eliminating food insecurity in all segments of the U.S. population, USDAs proposed budget for FY99 restores some of the previous cuts made in food stamp benefits to legal immigrants. Annually, the United States dedicates nearly $40 billion to food assistance initiatives including food stamps, the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children, the National School Lunch Program, and other programs which provide a safety net for needy children and others at risk.
International Food Security
State Department escalates food security concerns. In December 1996, the Department of State established the position of Special Representative for Food Security. The Special Representative is providing leadership in the development of the International portion of the U.S. Action Plan on Food Security, facilitated by preparation of a discussion paper on international food security released in the fall of 1997.
New strategies for international cooperation being developed. The State Department is also working with other agencies to develop a strategy for international cooperation on food security, with special emphasis on African programs. This strategy includes extensive cooperation with the European Union and Japan on food security in developing countries.
Conflict prevention assistance provided. Conflict prevention is one method to address international food security issues. The Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with local governments in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Angola, Bosnia, Guatemala and El Salvador in support of agricultural development and to prevent a relapse into conflict.
Food aid code of conduct being developed. USAID, working with other donor governments, has begun discussions with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on a Code of Conduct for Food Aid in the Context of Food Security for the Horn of Africa. The Code addresses the establishment of emergency preparedness and prevention strategies.
African Food Security Initiative launched. Beginning in FY97, USAID launched a ten-year, African-led Food Security Initiative focusing on issues such as market liberalization, agricultural export development, and agribusiness investment. In FY98, funds will be used to support agriculture and food security activities in five sub-Saharan African countriesEthiopia, Uganda, Mali, Malawi and Mozambique.
Food Aid Convention renegotiated. The United States participated in the Food Aid Committee (FAC) decision in June 1997 to re-negotiate the 1995 Food Aid Convention, taking into account the Marrakesh Accords. The United States was also active in the effort to broaden the FACs range of products and network of donor nations, by encouraging non-traditional donor countries to contribute food or monetary aid.
International research system supported. Since the World Food Summit, USAID has increased its contribution to the international agricultural research system by $3 million, of which $2 million has gone to strengthen institutional linkages with U.S. university agricultural research institutions.
Marketing and land tenure issues addressed. USAID is providing support to the Albania Land Market Action Plan which will stimulate the development of local land markets. USAID-sponsored research on land tenure systems and the relationship between land security and agricultural productivity in Uganda led to the adoption of a new Tenure and Control of Land bill.
Vitamin A deficiency work launched. A major new initiative to counter vitamin-A deficiency world-wide was launched by USAID and the Iodized Salt Program Tool recently completed testing in Malawi and is now ready for application across Africa.
Climate change program initiated. USAID also initiated a $1 billion climate change program that will support development of carbon sequestering farming and herding methods, as well as working to improve national capacities to adapt and adjust to climate changes and shocks.
African Trade and Development Initiative announced. In June 1997, a new bi-partisan Congressional initiative supported by the White House was made public calling for expanded American trade and economic development activities in Africa. The African Trade and Development Initiative includes five commercial measures designed to consolidate stability, prosperity, and democracy in Africanecessary preconditions for food security. The initiative will open American markets to more African goods, strengthen technical assistance, and increase private investment in Africa. Legislation supporting the initiative is being considered in Congress.
Cochran Fellowship Program expanded. The USDAs Cochran Fellowship Program was expanded to Namibia and Kenya, is being expanded in FY98 to include Uganda, Tanzania, and Senegal. Prior to 1996, the program was only active in one African country, Côte dIvoire. The program helps to develop agricultural infrastructure and agribusiness linkages.
Research in public policy and food security undertaken. The role of policy in improving food security is being studied by USDAs Economic Research Service (ERS), emphasizing the roles of regional stocks, food import insurance programs, and free trade zones in ensuring food security in southern Africa. Methodologies are also being developed by the ERS which may be used to estimate and project the gap between the purchasing power needed for an adequate diet and the available per capita income as an indicator of food security; and ERS is continuing its annual Food Security Assessment which examines food security issues in 66 low income countries over a five and ten year projection period.
Food security integrated into USDAs strategic plan. USDA has made the goal of enhancing international food security an integral part of its strategic plan, emphasizing its foreign food aid donations, technical assistance, research, and economic development activities. These activities help developing countries to feed themselves at the same time that they promote sustainable agricultural development through improved management of global resources.
Technical assistance in food safety provided. To ensure international food safety, USDA has designed and implemented a number of food safety technical assistance efforts. Examples are the Russian Food Safety Initiative, which provides policy guidance and technical training to Russian officials, and the Indonesia Food Code Initiative, which is a multi-agency effort financed by USAID to provide assistance to the Indonesian Government in drafting its Food Code.
Peace Corps increases emphasis on food security. The Peace Corps is attempting to find new ways of approaching their existing programs to take advantage of existing strengths and explore new synergies to promote food security. To facilitate this process, they established a discussion working group on food security which is operating from the perspective that food security is an effective paradigm within which to design projects. The working groups focus is currently on integrating existing effortssuch as volunteers in micro enterprise, nutritional rehabilitation, family gardens, and local agricultureand gathering data relevant to a food security.
Efforts undertaken to mitigate El-Ninos impact. The United States has initiated international efforts in Latin America, Southern Africa, and Southeast Asia to mitigate the impact of El Nino southern oscillation on food security in those regions.
For additional information, contact the Office of the National Food Security Coordinator, 202-690-0855