Food Aid Forges Ahead in Face of Challenges from COVID-19

Black children eat lunch of beans and rice at wooden tables
Food for education makes everyone smarter
Dec 11, 2020
ARLINGTON, VA -- The Food Aid Consultative Group (FACG) held its biannual meeting on Wednesday, to discuss U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) activities, commodity updates, and the impact of COVID-19 on global hunger and malnutrition.  FACG members include staff from both agencies, private voluntary organizations (PVOs), as well as commodity groups and trade associations who work in international food assistance.  The meeting provides an opportunity for these groups to discuss how best to combat malnutrition, hunger, and famine.
As with all industries across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic has been front and center in the food assistance world, and the meeting included extensive discussions of how the pandemic has changed the global approach to food assistance.  Two main takeaways were that the pandemic will continue to cause significant increases in the need for food assistance, and that movement restrictions and social distancing regulations necessitated by the pandemic have presented significant challenges to transportation and implementation.  It was noted that implementers have moved quickly to employ workarounds, and that continued flexibility, partnership, and ingenuity will be key to successful programs.
Rebecca Bratter, USA Rice food security consultant, gave a presentation on rice’s role in minimizing the impact of COVID-19 around the world.  Bratter reported that in 2020, U.S. rice saw its highest food aid tonnage in nearly a decade, which included record purchases of fortified rice.

“Fortified rice is a critical part of McGovern-Dole Food for Education programs in dozens of countries around the world,” said Bratter.  “The U.S. rice industry is proud to see a product as important and nutritious as fortified rice being used to combat childhood hunger and malnutrition, and will continue this fight in the face of the challenges of COVID-19, human conflict, and climate crises in the coming years.”

During the meeting, FACG also announced that Jesica Kincaid of USA Rice and Shelbi Knisely of U.S. Wheat Associates will serve as commodity representatives on the FACG Executive Committee, with Brian Goggin of North American Millers’ Association serving as alternate.  Bryant Gardner was selected to serve as the maritime representative.