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Smarter Food Aid

Internally displaced Somali children line up with containers in hand to receive food aid at a food distribution center, in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 15, 2011.

Last year alone, through USAID, the U.S. delivered food to 55 million people in 46 countries.

The United States is the world's largest supplier of global food aid. Last year alone, through USAID, the U.S. delivered food to 55 million people in 46 countries.

The demand for food aid continues to grow. This is due to a combination of more natural disasters, an increased number of people affected by them, and escalating food prices pushing more people into food insecurity.

The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, works with host governments, multilateral institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, and private companies to reduce global hunger and poverty. It is at the forefront of the U.S. global food aid effort. Seeking to improve the quality of food it distributes as part of its foreign aid contributions, USAID commissioned a study from Tufts University in Massachusetts on how to improve the products it delivers to those in need.

According to the report on the study's findings, delivered to USAID in late April, it's not enough to just deliver food to the hungry. And not just any food will do. Quality matters, as does tailoring the type of food delivered to specific consumers.

So, for example, the study recommends that if the consumer is a child under the age of two, or a sick child; a pregnant woman or a new mother; or an ill individual; the vitamin-fortified food should also include animal protein, such as milk protein. In fact, the quality of many of the foods should be improved, as should the quality of the nutritional supplements used to fortify them. The study also noted that combinations of foods are always better for the consumer than are combinations of nutrients in a single food.

"We'll look specifically into the recommendations into how to get more animal protein into foods so kids don't just get calories, but get the nutrition they need for brain development and human growth," said USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah.

"Implementing these proposals will help children learn better, grow stronger and achieve their full potential. Optimizing our food aid programs, combined with our Feed the Future Initiative to improve food security and nutrition can help us build toward the goal of ending hunger in a generation."