Food Assistance Policy
Helping families access food quickly & efficiently
Our food assistance policy work is an important complement to our emergency food assistance. Canadian Foodgrains Bank works in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, Canadian aid organizations, other donor countries and our coalition members to learn from and contribute to effective food assistance policies in Canada and internationally.
What are we trying to do?
Food aid was historically motivated as a means of disposing of agricultural surpluses. While feeding people, it also damaged the local markets for local food producers. We are working to ensure that food assistance is provided in ways that strengthen long-term food security and nutritional needs of girls, boys, women and men in crisis-affected countries. At the global level, we work with our coalition partners to monitor the implementation of the Food Assistance Convention and other donor food assistance policies. We also advocate for greater accountability to communities that receive food assistance, including through better reporting and transparency on food assistance.
What have we accomplished at the national level?
With the support of Canadian farm groups and our supporters, the Foodgrains Bank successfully persuaded the Canadian government to fully “untie” Canadian food aid in April 2008. This was to ensure that Canadian-funded food aid was purchased in developing countries from sources that are closer to the need. Canadian food aid is now largely purchased in developing countries, ensuring that the food we provide is more suited to the local diet and that nearby small-scale farmers benefit from the increased demand.
What have we accomplished at the international level?
At the global level, we led the Trans-Atlantic Food Assistance Dialogue (TAFAD), an international coalition, to push for the renegotiation of the Food Assistance Convention (FAC). The convention, which came into force in 2012, is an international agreement among 16 donor countries including the EU who pledge to provide a ‘floor level’ of food assistance each year in response to acute food crises around the world.
Compared to the previous treaty, the new treaty has two major improvements. First, it eliminated the unpredictability of food assistance. Second, it added new tools of food assistance to help get food to hungry people. This includes critical nutritional foods, livestock needed to re-establish herds, agricultural inputs, and vouchers and cash to let people buy food from local markets.
In 2017, the signatories to the FAC together contributed over US$7 billion to address the food security and nutritional needs of vulnerable populations. Canada commits at least Cdn$250 million/ year, and has exceeded this for several years running. Canada’s food assistance is channeled through the World Food Programme, Canadian Foodgrains Bank and Nutrition International.
At the end of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, 135 million people were facing severe levels of food insecurity, requiring humanitarian food assistance. The pandemic is making that situation worse.
Ten years after Canada fully unties its food aid to developing countries, Foodgrains Bank director of public policy, Paul Hagerman, reflects on the important role of advocacy.
Reducing the global incidence of violent and protracted conflicts must be a priority to achieve zero hunger by 2030. This calls for extending the humanitarian-development engagement to include the peace sector for sustainable food security outcomes.