For 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has led the fight against global hunger and contributed to one of history’s most transformative periods for food systems and agriculture.

USAID’s history with food security begins when the agency was created as part of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

An example of USAID’s early food assistance is a child hunger initiative called Operation Niños that began in 1962 to strengthen ties between the United States and Latin America. By 1965, ​​the program had reached more than 13 million school-age children and 2 million preschool-age children with daily meals.

Black-and-white photo of men lifting bags of food in Nigeria (USAID)
Food is distributed in Nigeria in 1974. (USAID)

USAID’s efforts to curb hunger and malnutrition increasingly called upon diverse partnerships. Leveraging these partnerships enabled USAID to build a coalition that would combat hunger from multiple angles and at a magnified scale.

Supported by USAID, American scientists and universities developed new innovations and agricultural breakthroughs. By supporting experts in the field, USAID partners developed techniques to:

  • Boost crop and animal productivity.
  • Regenerate soils.
  • Manage pests.
  • Enhance nutrition.
  • Support science-based biotechnology, and more.

In total, USAID has provided more than $1.4 billion to fund CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research), a partnership of research centers that has increased food production in 108 developing countries. USAID also worked with nonprofits, civil society groups, other federal agencies and local governments.

In 2010, the U.S. government created Feed the Future. Led by USAID, Feed the Future focuses on helping smallholder farmers across the globe, particularly women, move from subsistence farming to surplus farming.

People sitting on the ground sorting beans (© Herve Irankunda/CNFA)
Cooperative members in Bugesera, Rwanda, farm fortified beans, thanks to a Feed the Future project. (© Herve Irankunda/CNFA)

Since the start of Feed the Future, roughly 23.4 million more people now live above the poverty line and 5.2 million more families no longer suffer from hunger.

Today, Feed the Future also works to reduce food loss and waste, combat climate change, and help nations rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article abridges a longer article USAID published on Medium.