Advances in nutrition and biological sciences must be considered alongside developments in food technology to make available cost-effective commodities tailored to meet the needs of people living in developing countries. After many years of work on food aid quality by highly-regarded organizations, including Sharing United States Technology to Aid in the Improvement of Nutrition (SUSTAIN), the Food Aid Management Group (now defunct), the World Food Programme (WFP), and others, there remain large areas of unresolved debate over food aid’s nutrient specifications and formulations. The objective of this project is to develop a consensus surrounding these issues across a range of stakeholder groups, among which are key officials at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), who can ensure the implementation of recommendations emerging from the project.
This project is now complete and the final report has been submitted to USAID/USDA. Some of the key findings of the report include discussion of the fact that USAID and its partners on the ground have already achieved remarkable impacts under the most challenging of circumstances. Most food aid now responds to humanitarian crises, and specification of products has to be framed in that context, without ignoring the valuable food-assisted work conducted outside of emergencies. But there is much scope for improvement. Smarter programming, more careful targeting, greater attention to cost-effectiveness (in relation to planned human outcomes, not just numbers of people “fed”), enhanced coordination and streamlining of U.S. government interagency processes, enhanced policy harmonization among international players, and application of best practice in product formulation and production can markedly increase the impact of U.S. food aid resources.
Specifically, the components of this report led by Kate Sadler aimed to review the role of nutrition support in the progression of HIV/AIDS and in USAID programming related to HIV-affected populations. Here the review found a need for updated guidance on nutrition support for HIV/AIDS programming, with an urgent need for more information on the nutritional requirements for different groups of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in order to formulate this guidance. A strong signal is needed from PEPFAR supporting allocation of funds for food in HIV programs, and enhanced versions of fortified blended food (FBF), with the addition of oil, that could meet the generally increased requirements of PLHIV was recognized as potentially useful. In many countries, very large numbers of HIV-positive adults with mild-to-moderate malnutrition are being identified, and the cost of providing nutritional support to these adults (particularly with an imported ready-to-use food) is a commonly voiced concern. An improved, locally produced FBF has the potential to be more cost-effective.
Both the full report and the summary (50-page) report are now available at the Friedman School website. In addition, key findings from the review will be published in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin during the next quarter. The findings and summary report were recently released by the project team at the Kansas City Food Aid & Development Conference 2011. The conference went remarkably well and several presentations on the project were well received by the international food aid community. USAID appears happy with our contribution to what is a complex political, as well as technical, agenda, and there is now discussion of a phase 2, during which new food aid products outlined by the report might be tested for different populations and contexts.