Food Aid


Food aid consists of organized help in the form of in-kind donations of food products (direct transfers). The foodstuff is provided to areas, countries, and/or groups facing food shortage and food insecurity, in order to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Food aid programmes often develop their distribution system both with a long-term perspective and for particular emergency situations. These initiatives can sometimes target specific vulnerable groups like children, pregnant women, older people; operating via particular food distribution channels, such as schools, NGOs, state agencies. Alternatively, they can also be implemented in regular school meals, food parcels, etc. Food aid may be supplemented with non-food support for food security purposes.  

Food aid is one of the food-based interventions aiming to improve food security. Other examples include market interventions, food assistance in the form of financial support, etc. Cereal grains, maize, and rice are the most common items present in food aid packages. The main donors include countries (mostly USA responsible for half of total cereal food aid, then EU countries, Japan, Canada, Australia, among others), international organizations (United Nations World Food Programme and other UN organisations), NGOs and private enterprises. Although food aid recipients change over time, continuous help goes to Sub Saharan Africa and Asian countries, as well as Eastern Europe, North Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and other regions.  

There are three main forms of food aid, each of which uses a different kind of distribution system: food aid programmes, food aid projects, and emergency food aid (FAO 2005). Food aid programmes distribute food donated or sold (as in the case of cereal aid from the US) to recipient country governments at a concessional price. Food aid projects are usually reserved for particular social-economic strategies, targeting specific groups and channels. These are operated by NGOs and mostly provide food for free. Less often, food aid projects sell the products in order to generate financial resources for developmental programmes. Lastly, emergency food aid is provided directly and urgently to regions in crisis, mostly due to war and famines. Recent decades show the increasing prevalence of the third model as opposed to the first two.  

Different models, forms, and channels of food aid may impact specific aspects of sustainability. Many of them are mostly aimed at mitigating severe food insecurity (emergency interventions), therefore increasing human well-being. However, they may differ in efficiency, long-term consequences, and only some of them (e.g. developmental projects) recognize and address the challenges of more complex socio-ecological systems.  

  • Food Aid International 
  • Kids Against Hunger 
  • European Food Aid Programme (PEAD) 
  • UN Food Aid Programme 

Clothing aid and assistance may share some of their characteristics with food aid. However, the distinctive nature of food consumption against that of textile use limit the extent of their comparison. For example, the commercialization and donations of used textiles dominates the field of clothing aid. The model of operation and interests of both textile donors and recipients remains different. However, clothing assistance may accompany food aid, mostly in situations eliciting emergency support, amounting to a more complex and effective intervention (Norris 2012). 

Humana People to People: NGO: development project. “Humana People to People’s collection, sorting and sales of second-hand clothes give good clothes a longer lifespan, and the sales proceeds support development projects, agriculture and education, across Africa, Asia and Central and South America.” 

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization focused on hunger and food security, and the largest provider of school meals. Founded in 1961, it is headquartered in Rome and has offices in 80 countries. UN WFP is an example of multilateral channel of food aid, as opposed to bilateral (government to government) and NGOs food aid channels.

Krakow Food Bank: operating as distribution channel of PAED (European Food Aid Programme) as well as important actor of anti-food waste policy and providing operational NGOs network for many local food aid projects (emergency and long term). 

Food Aid: A Primer, Sarah Lowder and Terri Raney FAO 2005 ESA Working Paper No. 05-05  

Norris L. Economies of moral fibre? Recycling charity clothing into emergency aid blankets. Journal of Material Culture. 2012;17(4):389-404. doi:10.1177/1359183512459628