Complementing U.S. Government in-kind food aid, USAID is now among the largest cash providers of food assistance in the world through the Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). Each year, USAID uses International Disaster Assistance funds for local and regional procurement of food, as well as for providing cash transfers and food vouchers to beneficiaries to address food security needs in emergency contexts.

Cash-based food assistance is used when USAID’s in-kind food aid cannot arrive in time or it is more appropriate due to local market conditions. The EFSP does not provide funding to develop market linkages for small scale producers or to improve food quality, safety and marketing systems in recipient and neighboring countries. The program is authorized under the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961.  Guidance for submitting Emergency Food Security Program proposals to USAID is provided at the USAID Website.

How it works

USAID regulations and policies define “regional procurement” to be on the continent where the emergency food aid is required and the commodities do not have to be grown on that continent. For example, in the greater Syrian emergency, starting in 2013, debit cards provided to refugees were used in grocery stores to buy foods that could have come from many different countries in the world. In Africa, commodities bought from a broker might have been imported from overseas markets.

Entities that are eligible to apply for EFSP programs are: a U.S. or non-U.S. nongovernmental organization (NGO), including private voluntary organizations, or an organization designated by the U.S. Department of State as a public international organization, such as the UN World Food Program.

The program duration is typically less than 6 months since the resources are meant to address immediate emergency relief and early recovery. Duration of up to 12-months may be appropriate, but it must be justified. A cumulative period of up to 24 months in duration is possible but must be strongly justified.

USAID’s Office of Food for Peace issues the solicitation for proposals through an Annual Program Statement (APS) and receives and approves proposals. A Technical Evaluation Committee’s review of each application is heavily relied upon when determining awards.

USAID requires the submission of a brief concept paper prior to a full application. This concept paper allows USAID to quickly determine whether the proposed program meet the basic criteria and also indicates the extent of interest and areas of operation of different organizations. A successful concept paper meets the following criteria:

  1. applicant adequately justifies the need for emergency food assistance in accordance with the APS,
  2. proposed programmatic approach appears technically sound and without significant problems that would render the application highly unlikely to be funded, and
  3. food assistance pipeline or program is advisable at the time and, ideally, consistent with overall food assistance programs and coordination in the country.

If all three criteria are met, USAID will then consider the following factors: the current and planned level of U.S. Government support for the emergency, the response strategy of the recipient country’s government, the availability of P.L. 480 Title II and EFSP resources, other current and projected emergency food assistance needs, and the availability of U.S. Government pre-positioned food aid commodities.

At this point, if the concept paper is approved, the full application will be requested for submission. Submission does not guarantee funding and an application can be rejected if circumstances integral to the approval of the concept paper significantly change. A timely submission helps reduce this rejection. Full applications are evaluated on a rolling basis. After evaluation, discussions and/or negotiations are possible. More than one round of revision may be needed.

Fiscal Year 2013 EFSP Expenditures, Commodity Tonnage and Beneficiaries 

Value ($ mil) Metric Tons Programs Countries Beneficiaries
Local and Regional Purchase (IDA)* $309.7 275,194 57 29 9,396,680
Food Vouchers (IDA)* $224.4 ___
Cash Transfers for Food (IDA)* $43.5 ___
TOTALS: $577.60 275,194 57 29 9,396,680
*International Disaster Assistance (IDA) includes both regular appropriations and Overseas Contingency Operation funding, which is provided for countries such as Syria where conflicts affect the U.S. national interest. Cash and food vouchers are used to procure food from local markets and grocery stores and the amount and types of food procured are not measured.