Noteworthy: Chris Barrett discusses future of U.S. international food aid with ABC News

By: Katelyn Godoy
Photo of Chris Barrett with children in Africa. Credit: Chris Barrett
Chris Barrett with children in Africa. Photo credit: Chris Barrett


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, chronic malnourishment affected approximately 815 million people around the world last year alone. Chris Barrett, deputy dean and dean of academic affairs for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and a professor at Dyson, wants to reduce that number by eliminating maritime shipping restrictions on American international food aid. Current restrictions prevent United States food aid programs from being more efficient.

With next year marking the expiration of the 2014 Farm Bill, which addresses various American agricultural programs (including international food aid programs), academics, lobbyists, and politicians have all entered a disagreement over what type of aid the United States is best suited to provide—food-based assistance or cash-based assistance.

In an article from ABC News, Barrett discusses the potential effects of adjusting the provisions of American international food aid programs, different types of aid, and the negative effects of current United States food aid restrictions.

Key takeaways from ABC News

  • For the last decade, the United States has given between two and five times more funding annually to the U.N’s World Food Program than the next largest donor, but American food aid efficacy is greatly impacted by certain restrictions specific to the United States.
  • U.S. food aid programs must follow the cargo preference policy, meaning that at least 50 percent of food aid sent abroad must be shipped by U.S.-flagged vessels, even though this usually costs more than foreign alternatives.
  • Cargo preference in 2015 resulted in an added expense of over $107 million, which is three times the amount the United States spent on food assistance to Chad in 2017.
  • In his October testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Barrett explained: “…the $300 to $400 million wasted on these various restrictions effectively cost us something like 40,000 children’s lives every year.”
  • Barrett suggests that the United States should scrap food aid restrictions such as cargo preference in order to become more efficient with food aid, pointing out that Canada became twice as efficient at food aid as America after discarding a similar food aid requirement in 2008.

To learn more about Dean Barrett’s and other field experts’ thoughts on American international food aid, read the full article, “How to feed 800 million: The battle over the future of US food aid” from ABC News.

— Written by Julianna Teoh, a student writer intern for the
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business