Food For Peace


The purpose of the Food for Peace Program (PL 480) is to promote the food security of developing countries. This is accomplished by the provision of food aid to save lives, to help people recover from crises and to support nutrition and development in impoverished countries.

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient nutritious food to meet their dietary needs for an active and healthy life. The four pillars of food security are adequate

  • availability of food in the marketplace or from production;
  • access to food, meaning the wherewithal to buy or otherwise obtain food;
  • utilization of food, including dietary intake and the ability to absorb and use the nutrients in the body;
  • stability, which is the ability to maintain sufficient nutrition over time.

Since its inception in 1954, more than three billion people in 150 countries have benefited directly from U.S. food aid. Currently, in 44 countries worldwide, Food for Peace provides food and assistance for millions of individuals suffering from hunger and malnutrition. It was first signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy renamed it “Food for Peace,” stating, “Food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping to people around the world whose good will and friendship we want.”

PL 480 is comprised of three different programs:

  • Title I, Economic Assistance and Food Security.  Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), implemented primarily by developing country governments. Provides low-cost, long-term loans to developing countries for the procurement of commodities. It was the primary form of food aid until 1990, but declined during the 1990’s as donations became the norm. Title I is not currently funded.
  • Title II, Emergency and Private Assistance Programs. Administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented by private voluntary organizations (PVOs, e.g. not-for-profit, nongovernmental organizations registered with USAID), cooperatives and intergovernmental organizations (primarily the United Nations World Food Program, “WFP”). Donations of commodities to address emergency needs and for developmental programs that reduce vulnerability to crises and improve the nutrition and food security of poor, malnourished populations. It is the main avenue for U.S. food assistance. Funding varies depending on emergency needs. In fiscal year 2009, Title II provided 2.4 million metric tons of commodities and the total program cost, including food aid and support funds, was $2.6 billion.
  • Title III, Food for Development. Administered by USAID and implemented by developing country governments. Donations of commodities to developing countries to support food security programs.  It has not been funded since 1994.

How it Works

Because Title I and III are no longer funded, this section focuses on the process for Title II programs. USAID issues regulations and policy guidance that PVOs must follow when developing and implementing Title II programs. Private Voluntary Organizations are also required to comply with U.S. government audit requirements. The UN is not subject to U.S. regulations, guidance and audits and, therefore, the World Food Program receives food aid according to a special agreement it establishes with the U.S. Government.

USAID provides a list of eligible U.S. agricultural commodities, including processed and value-added products, which PVOs and the WFP may request. Choosing from this list and based on their local assessments of markets and needs, PVOs and the WFP identify the types and amounts of commodities required and a schedule for delivery. Once a Title II program is approved, the PVO or the WFP is called a “Cooperating Sponsor” and can order (“call forward”) the commodities for delivery.

The USDA Kansas City Commodity Office is responsible for buying the types and amounts of commodities identified on Cooperating Sponsor’s call forward. USDA procures the requested commodities by issuing a tender to commodity suppliers and processors. USDA evaluates the commodity bids and picks the one(s) that would result in the lowest landed cost based on a combination of the cost of the commodity and the cost of shipping it to the destination country. USDA awards the commodity contract, which identifies the dates that the commodities must arrive at a U.S. port and be ready for shipping.

The Cooperating Sponsor, through a tender process, arranges for the cargo to be shipped from the U.S. port and to the recipient country. The Cooperating Sponsor is responsible for handling and management of the commodity throughout the program, including delivering the food aid to the designated populations in accordance with its agreement with USAID.

Emergency food aid

Natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes and droughts, and manmade disasters, such as war or conflict, often make it impossible for affected populations to get enough food to eat.  Both PVOs and intergovernmental organizations can request emergency food aid from the USAID Office of Food for Peace based on an assessment of need – identifying the nature of the crisis, the number of people who will receive assistance, the types and amounts of commodities needed, the manner in which the food aid will be given to the targeted groups, and the cost of distribution. The process for approving emergency requests is streamlined in order to respond in a timely manner.

The USDA Kansas City Commodity Office issues tenders and buys commodities for emergencies.  However, in the early stages of an emergency and when immediate response is necessary, USAID has other options:

  • USAID maintains pre-positioned stocks of food aid at U.S. Gulf ports and several ports overseas to expedite response.
  • USAID may also decide to “borrow” commodities from a development program, either by re-directing a ship carrying food aid or allowing a PVO to shift commodities from its developmental food aid program to emergency response. In most cases, USAID will make sure that the PVO receives sufficient commodities to make up for the amount borrowed.

Oftentimes, USAID requests supplemental appropriations from Congress when emergency food aid needs an increase and the funding available in the Title II account is insufficient to supply the needed commodities. Congress has consistently provided the requested levels or more, but that may happen several months after the request is submitted by USAID.

Thus, there is a contingency fund to fill the gap. If the amount of Title II funds on hand is insufficient when an emergency arises, USAID can ask to tap into the Bill Emerson Emergency Trust, which is administered by USDA. It holds funds that can be used to buy commodities and the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation will cover the cost of shipping and delivering the commodities. In addition, USAID may use its International Disaster Assistance funds to buy commodities, including in overseas markets. [see USAID Emergency Food Security Program here]

Title II emergency food aid programs received $2.165 billion in FY 2009, of which $267 million was provided through USAID agreements with PVOs. The remainder, nearly $1.9 billion, was provided through USAID agreements with the WFP, which delivers the commodities to warehouses or distribution sites within the recipient country and usually partners with local governments and nongovernmental organizations (including PVOs) that will deliver the food aid to targeted recipients.

Non-emergency food aid

Some of the Title II funds are reserved for 3-5 year developmental programs called “multiyear assistance programs,” or “MYAPs.” In fiscal year 2009, $375 million was provided for this purpose and the level is increasing by $25 million each year until it reaches $450 million in fiscal year 2012. USAID issues a list of eligible countries and PVOs are invited to submit proposals. USAID regulations, policies and guidance for the submission of MYAP proposals can be found on the USAID website here.

Development of a proposal by a PVO takes several months and includes the following steps:

  • Within a priority country, identify areas of greatest need through consultations with U.S. and recipient country officials and nongovernmental organizations.  Also review statistical information from nationwide and regional surveys conducted by recipient countries, the UN, and other recognized sources.  Such data may include mortality rates of children under the age of five, infant mortality rates, prevalence of malnutrition among children, percentage of people living under the poverty line, susceptibility to drought, and prevalence of disease, such as HIV/AIDS.
  • Once areas of greatest need are pinpointed, meet with local administrators, associations and community members to determine what types of services are already being provided, which services are lacking, and the types of interventions that would be most helpful. PVOs use focus groups, rapid surveys, and other methods to narrow down the target population to those with greatest need and to identify the problems that should be addressed
  • Work with local partners to design and implement programs.  Inclusion of both men and women and a wide spectrum of the community members will help assure that the program design will meet the community’s needs.
  • Identify the appropriate products for distribution to targeted community members (often children 6-49 months, school children, people living with HIV/AIDS, or participants in food-for-work infrastructure projects).  In a net food-importing country it may also be appropriate to import a small amount of a commodity that is short support: sell it through commercial channels, and use the sales proceeds in the country to conduct developmental activities that complement food distribution.
  • Conduct market analysis to ensure that donated food aid products will not interfere with local agricultural production or commercial markets.
  • Submit a proposal that meets USAID’s regulatory and policy requirements. It includes the needs assessment, target population, types and amounts of commodities and schedule for delivery, market analysis, operational plan, and monitoring and evaluation plan. The proposal must also demonstrate coordination with the recipient country’s development plans, USAID’s strategic objectives for that country and the U.S. Government’s food security plan. Activities typically include improving agricultural production and marketing, natural resource management, health and household nutrition (especially mother-child health and nutrition), and microenterprise.

After the PVO signs the MYAP agreement with USAID, it can order the commodities and receive support funds for the first fiscal year. At the end of each fiscal year, the PVO submits an “Annual Resource Report,” which describes progress and accomplishments measured against the project’s objectives and indicators. A pipeline and resource estimate is also prepared, which identifies and justifies the program budget and commodities for the new fiscal year.

The countries listed below all had active Food for Peace Title II programs in fiscal year 2010. For more information on each country, project details and U.S. contributions please click on the related country fact sheet below.

Success Stories:

Ugandan Refugee Farmer Group Now Overwhelmed by Success

Female Farmers in Uganda

For more information visit USAID’s website.