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Food Aid Is About Three Things: Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency

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Real estate is about location, location, location. Food aid for the hungry is also about three things: efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. This is especially crucial when you see such high numbers of hungry people in both the United States and abroad. You have to make the most out of the resources you’ve got.

The Freestore Foodbank of Cincinnati is one of many charities across the U.S. helping people cope with hunger during tough economic times. You might expect a food drive with a collection barrel to be what the Freestore wants to see. But actually this is not the case. The Freestore would rather see the typical food drive moved online.

When there is a food drive at a church, for example, the Freestore will do delivery and pickup of the barrel. This means a gas and driver expense. If a food drive is held online, you eliminate these costs and save time.

Also, a dollar donated to a virtual campaign can produce more food, as opposed to the typical canned good dropped in a barrel. Brian MacConnell of the Freestore says, “We can buy four meals for a dollar,” via bulk purchases.

The result is more food for the hungry at a time when the need is great. The Dept. of Agriculture reports that 14.7 percent of U.S. families were food insecure at least some time during 2009. In November of 2010, the Freestore distributed 2,166,497 pounds of food around the Cincinnati area. This is a huge increase compared to 1,274,615 pounds for November of last year.

Getting the most out of food drives has never been more critical. The Freestore is promoting their virtual food drive plan at their website, encouraging people to start fundraising teams.

On the global level, efficiency in aid is the goal of the Purchase for Progress initiative run by the World Food Programme. Boosting the production of small farmers worldwide allows WFP to make more purchases within the countries that need aid. This saves money, compared with shipping the food in from greater distances. Even a good storage facility for a farmer can preserve more of the food they grow. This is another way Purchase for Progress works to make farming production more efficient.

In September when I spoke before a class at the College of Mount St. Joseph, this aspect of food aid was very much on their minds. Their position was clear: no waste, and finding the most efficient way to feed the hungry.

That is what we should all expect in the fight against global hunger.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.