Q & A's: U.S. Action Plan on Food Security
What is "food security"?
People have "food security" when they have both physical and economic access to enough food to lead a healthy and active life.
Food security depends on three elements: adequate food availability through agricultural production, imports, and government policies; conditions that give people access to food in stores, farmers markets, and other outlets; and full utilization of food through adequate, balanced diet, safe water, sanitation, education, and health care.
What is the U.S. Action Plan on Food Security?
It is a long-term road map for reducing hunger and eliminating the conditions that lead to hunger and malnutrition and ensuring food security through partnerships between public and private groups.
Why did we create the action plan?
At the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, the United States, along with 186 other countries, pledged to cut the number of undernourished people in the world by half by the year 2015 and to create national plans of action for reaching that goal. The report we are releasing today is our plan. The United States is the second country to have completed such a plan; Canada was the first.
What are the goals of the action plan?
Our goals are the same as the World Food Summits goals and more. We have adopted the World Food Summits goal for reducing global undernutrition. Internationally, the goal of the plan is to guide U.S. policy as we work with other donor nations and the international community to reduce the number of hungry people around the world from 800 million to 400 million by 2015.
The United States is going beyond the Summit commitments and tackling the problem of domestic hunger and food insecurity. Domestically, we want to halve not only hunger but food insecuritythe conditions that lead to hungerby 2015.
Who wrote the action plan?
The plan was authored by the Interagency Working Group on Food Security (IWG) in collaboration with the federally-constituted non-governmental Food Security Advisory Committee (FSAC), a sub-committee of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. The IWG is co-chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Department of State, and the Agency for International Development. The FSAC has representatives from private industry, academia, non-governmental and private voluntary organizations, and tribal government. Lists of IWG and FSAC members can be found in the appendixes of the action plan.
What are the key messages in the action plan?
What are the main components of the action plan?
The plan has seven chapters; each chapter with a domestic and an international section. The chapters are: 1) Economic Security and Policy Environment; 2) Trade and Investment; 3) Research and Education; 4) Sustainable Food Systems and the Environment; 5) Food Security Safety Net; 6) Information and Mapping; 7) Food and Water Safety.
What is new about the action plan?
The action plan takes a comprehensive approach to ending hunger, attempting to eliminate the conditions that cause it rather than just providing emergency, short-term assistance.
It uses existing resources in a more effective and efficient way, expanding their impact through the creation of new public-private partnerships and improved coordination among and between Federal, State and local governments, communities, and non-governmental organizations.
Who will implement the action plan?
The action plan will be implemented by individuals and communities around the country, by State and Federal governments, by non-governmental organizations, and through our foreign policy.
The IWG and the FSAC will monitor the implementation of the plan and provide the core working groups on specific issues and programs as they are developed. They will also work together to ensure that implementation continues to be a collaborative, consultative process between government and civil society.
USDA has created the Community Food Security Initiative to implement many of the domestic actions in the plan. It harnesses the strengths of many USDA programs to create an integrated tool-box for communities to create long-term food security by enhancing their local food security infrastructure.
How will we know if the action plan is successful?
Members of the IWG, along with many other people in the nutrition and food security research community, are working to improve our ability to understand and measure food security both in the United States and abroad. In 1995, the U.S. government conducted a benchmark Household Food Security Survey. This survey provided a good overview of the food security status of households throughout the United States. It indicated that over the course of the year, 11.9 percent of households were food insecure and 4.1 percent experienced food insecurity with either moderate or severe hunger. This benchmark will be used along with new measures of community food security being developed to determine the impact of programs implemented under the plan.
The IWG will provide interim reports on progress that will be available to the general public.
Part of the plans success will also be determined by the extent to which we are able to encourage the creation of new partnerships around the country that will promote food security. In order to promote these types of partnerships, the U.S. government will be collaborating with NGOs to create a web site that will provide a clearing house for information on food security programs around the country, and eventually, globally.
What has already been done to implement the action plan?
A number of actions are already underway or in the planning stages:
The USDA Community Food Security Initiative. To ensure that the domestic goals of the action plan are met, USDA has launched a new Community Food Security Initiative. This initiative represents a bold new approach through community-based public/private partnerships. There is a request for $800,000 for the initiative in the Administrations FY2000 budget. The initiative targets six elements outlined in the action plan:
*Building strong local food systems and infrastructures
*Boosting economic and job security
*Strengthening government and private food assistance
*Bolstering community food production and marketing
*Increasing education and awareness
*Improving research activities that directly help communities
A pilot universal school breakfast program. To improve access to food around the country, improve child nutrition, and strengthen the Federal food assistance safety net, the Presidents FY2000 budget includes $13 million for USDA to launch a pilot universal school breakfast program.
New funds for gleaning and food recovery. The Presidents FY2000 budget includes $15 million for gleaning and food recovery to further the plans goal of enhancing local food systems through partnerships linking communities, farms, and markets.
Expansion of WIC and WIC farmers markets. The Presidents budget includes a $200-million increase in WIC overall and a 33-percent increase in funds for WIC farmers markets to strengthen the Federal food assistance safety net.
Expansion of nutrition research. The Presidents budget includes $5 million in new funds for nutrition research to further the plans goal of increasing research to encourage "healthy food, nutrition, and physical activity behavior."
Ensuring international food security in the next two decades will be largely dependent on policy reform in foreign nations. The plan calls for the United States to encourage an enabling environment in foreign countries and to enhance coordination of its foreign assistance with other donor nations; promote freer trade to enhance global access to food; improve research capacity and enhance human capacity, particularly through education of girls and women; target more food aid to the most needy and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of food aid programs; and support the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in setting international food safety standards. Immediate actions include:
Policy Reform. The State Department has committed to making food security part of its policy directives to ensure that food security issues are considered in policy formation. Pilot working groups are being formed to tackle food security issues on a country-by-country basis.
Expansion of the African Food Security Initiative. USAID has requested from Congress a 50-percent increase in funding for its African Food Security Initiative, which would boost the programs budget from $30 million to $45 million.
Implementing the Africa: Seeds of Hope Act. In response to the "Africa: Seeds of Hope" legislation, USDA is working with the Agency for International Development to develop a plan for ensuring that research and extension activities respond to the needs of small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Representatives from U.S. land grant institutions and from international agricultural research centers and African agricultural research and extension systems are developing the plan.
Focusing Agricultural Research. USDA, along with other public and private partners, is working to support innovative research on food security and to expand our technical assistance to foreign nations in areas that promote food security
How does the action plan help American farmers?
The plan is good for American farmers in several ways. Rural development and the creation and enhancement of sustainable rural communities and small farms are key elements of ensuring long-term food security for the nation and the global community. Farmland protection, enhancing local food systems and links between local producers and consumers, promoting freer trade, and eliminating non-scientifically based-barriers to trade all help promote American agriculture.
Global food security is good for American agriculture. Economic security and free trade in foreign countries means better, more stable markets for American agricultural exports.
March 24, 1999
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