I struggle to describe my love for food. I might call myself a foodie, but it sounds so pretentious, and food-lover just smacks of gluttony. Food-appreciator? Most everybody appreciates food though, so maybe it’s not quite strong enough. I love food in a way that makes me take a forty-minute subway ride for a slice of the best greasy pizza in Boston. I love food in a way that makes me say things like, “Wow, this is one great sandwich. I mean, I know it’s a PB&J, but the bread is nice and grainy and the peanut butter has the right amount of crunch. What kind of jelly is this, anyway?” I don’t have a particular penchant for gourmet cuisine or huge portions; I just think food is pretty great.
Though I love food, it wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I broadened my perspective beyond what I put in my own mouth. I had never thought too hard about where my food comes from, but working on a vegetable farm that summer I learned a lot about the American food system. Suddenly, I was thinking about how many people were involved in the harvest, production and delivery of the applesauce cup in my brown bag. Is organic really “better”? Why do low-income neighborhoods have fewer grocery stores with fresh produce than wealthier areas? How can meat production possibly account for 15% of the world’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions? These are the kind of questions that arose that summer and sparked my interest in food policy.
Now, as an international relations major, I find food’s role in current events fascinating. Rising food prices have helped ignite the Arab Spring revolts, twelve million people in East Africa are suffering from famine, and meanwhile half of the U.S. could be obese by 2030. The interconnected global food system is ripe with possibilities for study. For my paper, I have decided to look at a sliver of America’s international food policy: foreign food aid. Programs like Food for Peace may only account for a fraction of our overall budget, but they are not without controversy. For example, almost all of the food must originate from the U.S. and be shipped by American carriers. This may promote American jobs, but it is costly financially and environmentally; moreover, it does not incorporate indigenous agriculture that may provide long-term solutions to hunger.
The Congressional debates surrounding these issues provide an interesting glimpse into American foreign aid policy. Over the course of my research, I hope to explore them and eventually choose a case-study that highlights both the good and the bad of U.S. foreign food aid. Ultimately, I plan to evaluate the given program on several different measures of success and examine possible improvements. (Aided, of course, by an ample supply of chocolate soy milk and Ritz crackers.)