Briefing Papers Number 15, February 2012

Number 15, February 2012 briefing paper Improving Food Aid to Improve Maternal and Child Nutrition by Scott Bleggi Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute educates its network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. UN Photo/Kibae Park Abstract Key Points • Reducing maternal and child malnutrition, especially in the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2, is a key priority of U.S. global food security and health initiatives. • Food aid is an essential tool in tackling malnutrition. As the world’s largest provider of food aid, the United States can lead the way in improving its quality to better target undernourished women and children. • Setting the goal of improving maternal and child nutrition as a central program objective would help align food aid investments with those being made in Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative. • Lipid-based, fortified, and other nutrition-dense products, already included in the food aid commodities list, should be more widely procured and distributed. Successful pilot program nutrition interventions must move quickly “to scale.” • Strengthening mechanisms to solicit and promptly incorporate feedback from implementing partners and to document and disseminate best practices would improve the responsiveness of food aid programs to nutritional needs on the ground. Scott Bleggi is the senior international policy analyst for hunger and nutrition for Bread for the World Institute. The United States is the world’s largest provider of food aid products—procured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and distributed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through partner organizations overseas. A growing body of scientific evidence shows that early childhood nutrition interventions, aimed at the critical “1,000 Days” window from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday, are extremely effective and cost-efficient ways to arrest the lifelong effects of malnutrition. More than 100 country governments and civil society organizations have signed on to the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, which supports efforts to expand effective nutrition programs to undernourished pregnant women and young children. Reducing maternal and child malnutrition is a key priority of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives. There are opportunities to reform food aid to better align it with the objectives of these two programs. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has reported on inefficiencies in U.S. food aid procurement and distribution, while Tufts University has released an important study of ways to improve the nutritional quality of food aid. With debate on the next farm bill beginning, now is the time to improve this essential program.