U.N. officials say that some one billion people worldwide suffer from hunger or are in danger of doing so.
President Barack Obama is committed to helping developing countries fight hunger and poverty. In his inaugural address, he said: "To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds."
At the recent G-20 Summit, President Obama announced he will work with Congress to double U.S. financial support for agricultural development in poor countries to more than $1 billion in 2010. This complements the long-standing U.S. commitment as the world's biggest donor of emergency food assistance.
Speaking to this year's International Food Conference, sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Agency for International Development, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that since 1954, U.S. food aid has served over 3 billion people. During the past decade, the U.S. provided nearly 55 percent of all global food assistance.
Secretary Vilsack noted that "our capacity to meet this extraordinary need must start with a commitment to build a strong economy here in the United States." Without a strong economy, he said, "we cannot make a strong commitment to International Food Aid."
Secretary Vilsack traveled to Italy this month to attend the first-ever G-8 agriculture ministers meeting. There, ministers discussed collective efforts to address food insecurity. Afterwards, Secretary Vilsack reported, "Supporting food security is not only our moral obligation, as a factor impacting global economic development and international stability, it is our responsibility. We took an important step toward building a consensus around issues affecting access, availability, utilization of food among vulnerable populations."
The U.S. approach to fighting world hunger addresses the underlying causes of food insecurity through agricultural development programs as well as emergency measures to help meet immediate food needs during a crisis.
This approach includes such initiatives as the McGovern-Dole International food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which has provided food for 22 million children in 41 countries, prompting a 14 percent increase in school enrollment. Program funding increased by over 80 percent in 2009, and Mr. Vilsack announced a new tranche of program allocations that the U.S. hopes will provide access to nutritious meals for 655,000 more children.
In cooperation with its international partners, the U.S., said Secretary Vilsack, seeks to reassure a billion hungry people "that there are people who care and people who are working each and every day to try to reduce that number."