Food aid comes in many forms, though all types of food-related assistance fits into several key categories. The type of food aid a particular area receives depends on the needs of that area; namely, aid depends on whether there is a temporary or ongoing need. Food aid is the first response in disaster or conflict areas, but in other parts of the world it’s given due to a persistent lack of sufficient provisions for basic survival. The first group is geared toward carrying people over until their normal conditions are restored, whereas the second is meant to change the normal conditions for the better.
Providing short-term food aid in disaster areas
When disaster strikes or war breaks out, food supply lines are often the first thing to break down – and the most crucial link for the survival of the area’s inhabitants. In such cases, monetary assistance may do people very little good because there may not be any food available for purchase. Aid in the form of vacuum-sealed, nutrient-packed meals may be shipped in to those areas, along with the means to get the food to those who need it regardless of whether it must travel over land, sea, or air.
Economic or environmental crises may also cause a short-term food shortage. As crops die out or the prices become unsustainable, small farmers and ranchers lose the finances required to continue operations. These food suppliers are essential to the population, and are often helped by financial subsidies from their own government, or from another government or organization sympathetic to their plight.
Building the infrastructure for ongoing food production
Temporary food aid has saved many lives all over the world, but there are areas where persistent famine, drought, disease, or poverty require a much more proactive approach to food aid. These may be areas where economies have been completely destroyed by prolonged conflict, or where weather or population conditions require more resources than the land can supply.
Food aid that works to change the conditions in a given area to make it self-sustainable may include seeds to start crops, fertilizers, experts to evaluate and build up the soil, or even more or better livestock. For example, families in poverty-stricken areas of Africa may be able to completely turn around their socio-economic status, and even that of their entire village, with something as simple as a cow. Programs are being implemented to not only provide families with milk cows, but to breed the native Ankole cattle to higher-producing breeds such as Jerseys to provide more produce for the resources the animal consumes.
Overall, the types of food aid that might help in any given area depends on the needs. If temporary assistance is all that agriculturally-depleted areas receive, the resources to send the food will eventually run out. On the other hand, if an area is capable of producing its own food but only needs temporary aid to compensate for extenuating circumstances, there is no need to invest additional resources into buffering the food production capabilities. With proper application of food aid, it is possible to eventually eradicate all hunger in the world, it’s just a matter of discovering what really works for each area of need.