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Is U.S. food aid working?

This week, Need to Know followed photojournalist Ron Haviv as he traveled to Bangladesh to document one of the world’s most dramatic health crises: childhood malnutrition. As Haviv and the organization he was working with, Doctors Without Borders, have shown, U.S. food aid policy can sometimes seem at odds with its stated purpose of alleviating malnutrition and hunger.

To understand how the U.S. can offer more suitable food aid to the world’s malnourished children, Jon Meacham sat down with Reverend David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a faith-based citizens’ movement that works to draw attention to the issue of hunger. Beckmann’s group lobbies Congress to take action by increasing foreign aid and revising domestic farm policy. He is both a Lutheran minister and an economist who spent 15 years at the World Bank.


Malnutrition, the silent epidemic

PHOTOS: “Starved for Attention”



  • Chuck Robertson

    While I agree, world (and local) hunger is a problem, I heard nothing in this program about population control. I believe the overpopulation of the world is the major problem. But there is a Catch 22. Those things which are “good” (medicines, adequate food, etc.) make the overpopulation problem worse while the “bad” things (disease, war, flooding, etc.) help keep the population down. And a smaller population means less energy use, less water use, and generally make less impact on this isolated island we call Earth.

  • Lucille E. Rogers

    It seems to me that sending food aid to the starving people of the world is an endless operation. I’ve been a contributor to “Heifer International” for a number of years and their function is to give farm animals to poor families so that they can make a living for themselves. Some examples of the animals they give are heifers, goats, chickens, lambs, honey bees, etc. By doing this, the gift lasts, grows, and produces an income for the family. I think the government should think about this concept of giving a permanent gift. Poor families would appreciate the gift much more and certainly it would improve our image around the world.

  • Brad

    First, an outstanding segment well produced. Meacham’s interviews and reporting were excellent.

    Second, I believe there is no reason why a single child on this planet must starve or suffer from malnutrition. The challenge is straight- forward and simple to correct whether it is in rural or urban America or an impoverished village in Africa or Asia. All that is required is the will to do it!

    Access to clean water is the prerequisite needed to solve the problem at the local level. Equipment for drilling water wells is portable and available. Getting foodstuffs with the proper nutritional value to the needed areas should also present few difficulties.

    The third component is money. At least part of the money allocated should be spent within the geographical area being helped. The policy that states that all charitable foodstuffs be produced or manufactured in the US is out of step -especially when you consider US policies to “nation build” those countries with whom we are at war.

    Politics in the host country can either help or hinder a humanitarian effort. It must be dealt with.

    If the US is spending roughly $3 billion a year to address the challenge it will not take a lot of political gamesmanship, nor cost a lot of political capital, to either double or triple the budget almost overnight.

    So, what’s the problem?

  • Zinaida Vaganova Dodds

    The segment gives an opportunity to think about increasing US exports of various mixes already containing the needed vitamins until the problem is being solved along the lines suggested — improving resepective countries’ self-sufficiency. If vitamin mixes work for athletes, they should work for vitamin-defficient children.
    Thank you for giving the appropriate fund-raising agencies for PBS a “food for thought.”

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  • Eileen Cooley

    hello, I am a family and consumer sciences teacher and I am writting a web based curriculum for any teachers to use. I follow the New York State high school Global Foods Standard and I will be personnaly using this in my International Foods Class. The curriculum is called the Face of Hunger and I would like to place the 2 videos on the web for teachers to download and use in their classes. I have not been able to copy it off the web. Could I have permission to do this? Where could I get copies of these 2 video casts? THank you for your help. Eileen