"For almost six decades, the United States has played a leading role in global efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and to enhance world food security through international food assistance-traditionally through either the donation or sale on concessional terms of U.S. agricultural commodities but in recent years also by direct cash transfers targeting emergency situations and by investing in host-country nutrition and agricultural development activities. Historically, U.S. international food assistance has been distributed through four main program authorities: (1) the Food for Peace Act (FFPA, also known as P.L. 480); (2) the Section 416(b) program (which has been inactive since 2007); (3) the Food for Progress Act of 1985; and (4) the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. [...] Since FY2006, annual spending on U.S. international food assistance programs has averaged $2.5 billion, with FFPA Title II outlays averaging $1.8 billion (74%). Despite growth in cash-based assistance under EFSP, the United States continues to rely heavily on in-kind transfers of domestic commodities for international food aid. In contrast, most other countries operating international food aid programs have converted primarily to cash-based food assistance. U.S. reliance on in-kind food aid has become controversial due to its identified inefficiencies and potential market distortions compared with cash-based assistance. In addition to domestic sourcing, U.S. food aid is subject to a suite of legislative requirements that potentially limit the U.S. response to emergency food crises."
CRS Report for Congress, R41072