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food aid

Feed the Future: Together We Can

This week, USDA was honored to join forces with USAID and Islamic Relief USA to host the department’s 4th annual Iftar celebration. The event welcomed over 170 guests, including representatives from humanitarian organizations, faith-based groups and federal employees.  This year’s Iftar called attention to the importance of reducing food insecurity abroad with the theme “Feed the Future: Together We Can.” Iftar is an evening gathering held each year during Ramadan.  A time of spiritual cleansing in the Islamic faith, Ramadan is when Muslims fast, abstaining from food and water from sunrise until sunset. Iftar is the meal at which Muslims break their fast each night. For many Muslims, fasting is an act of empathy towards those around the world who go hungry not by choice, but instead by circumstance.

USDA Welcomes Appointment of U.S. Ambassador Ertharin Cousin as the World Food Programme’s Executive Director

There is good news!  Earlier this week Ambassador Ertharin Cousin was appointed as Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme. The WFP, based in Rome, is the world’s largest humanitarian agency. Its objective is to provide food aid to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people with the intent of ultimately ending the need for food aid by eradicating hunger and poverty.

Ambassador Cousin is uniquely qualified to assume this prominent position. I have had the opportunity to spend time with her in one of the grandest cities in the world.  For more than two years, she has been living in Rome, where she has served as our country’s Representative to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome.  In this role, Ambassador Cousin has provided critical leadership in helping to carry out President Obama’s global food security policies.  She is full of energy, ideas, and optimism.  Secretary Vilsack and I greatly appreciate Ambassador Cousin’s support in fulfilling the United States’ strategic objectives with the three Rome-based U.N. agencies. We know she will bring the same level of dedication to her new role.

Joint USDA-Catholic Relief Services Project Feeds, Teaches Guatemalans To Ensure Food Security

The “dry corridor” in Guatemala suffers from annual drought and food shortages that affect the food security and incomes of people in the region. Last year was worse than most—drought followed by devastating floods caused by tropical storms and rain that destroyed crops, increasing food insecurity and child malnutrition.

Conference Covers Past, Present, and Future of International Food Aid and Development Assistance

The USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have once again joined forces to collaborate with individuals and organizations that feed hungry people, promote sustainable development and provide technical assistance around the world.  This is the thirteenth year of the International Food Aid and Development Conference, and I was proud to deliver keynote remarks here in Kansas City, Mo. Nearly 600 people from more than 25 countries discussed what has worked, what has not, and what we can do in the future to improve our food assistance and program delivery.

The U.S. government’s international food assistance programs will benefit 5.2 million people in the developing world this year. The challenges of global food security are enormous -- nearly one billion people are malnourished, and this number will likely grow as the world population continues to rise. Meanwhile, the United States, like many other nations, is facing serious budget pressures. In addition, commodity prices and demand continue to rise, squeezing food assistance dollars further.

Land O’Lakes Providing Food Aid, Ensuring Food Security In Zambia

It was quite an active week as I represented the USDA at the 10th annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum.  While in Zambia, I had the opportunity to see firsthand a USDA-funded food assistance program in action.  This included a Local and Regional Procurement (LRP) Pilot Project that is providing monthly food baskets to households impacted by HIV/AIDS.  LRP is designed to use local and regional purchasing to help meet urgent food needs in developing countries and in areas faced with food crises and disasters.

The Zambia Local and Regional Procurement Program (ZLRP) is a yearlong project providing nutritional food to nearly 10,000 rural households that care for orphans and vulnerable children in Zambia’s Chongwe, Chibombo and Mumbwa districts. Land O’Lakes is working with World Vision to implement the project with USDA funding. The food these households receive allows them to leave their crops in the ground until they are fully ready to harvest, and thus are more nutritious.  This in turn enables the families more time and energy to pursue other activities to improve their livelihoods and quality of life.

USDA’s Food for Progress Program Helps African Growth and Opportunity Act Countries Integrate into the Global Economy

Nations like Liberia have much to gain, as high-level officials from the United States and 37 Sub-Saharan African countries gather in Lusaka, Zambia, for the June 9-10 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum.  Not only is Liberia eligible for AGOA trade preferences, allowing it to export a host of agricultural products to the United States duty-free, but it could receive more than $87 million in U.S. assistance in fiscal year 2011 to strengthen economic growth, which includes its agricultural sector. U.S. trade capacity building and technical assistance places Liberia in a better position than most to take advantage of AGOA trade preferences.

USDA’s Food for Education Program Continues to Benefit Health of World’s Citizens

A group of schoolchildren wait patiently in line to get their lunch. This ritual takes place in schools all over the world. But for the children in Mali, a country ranked 160 out of 169 of the poorest countries in the world, this may be their one nutritious meal for the day. With the number of chronically hungry people surpassing one billion, a sustainable approach is necessary to answer the call of those in need. USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program answers that call and works to not only feed the world’s hungry, but also improve the nutrition and education of children around the world.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Find a Home at USDA

Peace Corps volunteers find themselves in a variety of locales covering a wide range of issues related to agriculture, education and health. And when they return, many of them have the opportunity to apply their Peace Corps experience to their professional lives back in the States. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) boasts a large number of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) working in a variety of program areas from scientific affairs to capacity building. In honor of Peace Corps Month and the 50th anniversary of the Corps, it is fitting to look at some of the Agency’s RPCVs and how their service in the Peace Corps has benefited their work at USDA.