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.

USAIDGuidance for Submitting Title II Emergency Food Aid Proposals to USAID