Food Aid

US Dry Bean Council Food Aid Committee Principles

USDBC’s Food Aid Committee is charged with advocating for policies and priorities that promote the continuation of best practices for US food assistance programs.  U.S. food assistance programs have traditionally relied on the use of in-kind donations for the direct distribution or monetization (barter) of U.S. commodities.  The US dry bean industry has a long history of supporting and promoting the use of US dry beans in U.S. food assistance programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern Dole Food For Education Program (FFE) and Food for Progress Program (FFPr), and through the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace Program (FFP).

The U.S. dry bean industry is fundamentally committed to assisting vulnerable populations around the world and believes that the use of in-kind donations is by far, the most efficient and effective means of achieving that goal. USDBC understands that a fully functional food assistance program will include the complete range of feeding options; in-kind donations, cash, and the local/regional purchase of foods, each used where appropriate.  USDBC does not support the elimination of in-kind food aid programs nor any reduction of the “development safebox” currently funded at $350 million.

USDBC does not support ongoing efforts to reform current food aid programming,  which would fundamentally alter the way the US engages, by eliminating in-kind commodity donations. Further, USDBC believes that the USDA must remain a key player in food aid programs through McGovern Dole and Food for Progress.

USDBC believes in the following principles in light of current efforts to reform food aid:

  • Changes proposed by Food Aid reform would require reopening the Farm Bill.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 authorized PL 480 for 5 years assuring a minimum of $350 million for developmental food assistance, while incorporating flexibility to use up to 20% of program funds in lieu of monetized proceeds for development programs and for overseas procurement or cash transfers.
  • In addition, Development Assistance funds can be used to support development activities under Title II (called “Community Development Funds” by USAID).
  • Each time the Obama Administration and others push for additional reforms they make it sound like USAID does not have adequate flexibility to use cash for local-regional procurement and cash transfers.   This is not the case – USAID has been using up to $600 million of International Disaster Account monies for LRP and cash transfers.   Moreover, reducing the amount of US commodities regularly available will reduce economies of scale and program reliability will be jeopardized.
  • Changing Title II to mimic International Disaster Assistance, would dilute the program’s effectiveness and set the stage for reducing funding overall for food and disaster assistance.
  • Title II  meets nutritional and food security needs in emergencies and in chronically food insecure areas and is constantly evolving based on lessons learned.
  • Title II incorporates both bulk and value-added products. A mix of foods can be tailored to meet local needs.  Fortified, blended foods are available as well for cases of moderate to severe malnutrition.
  • If we somehow lose Title II development programs, we lose all of the experiential knowledge about which interventions work to reduce hunger and increase income and food supplies.
  • The new Feed the Future Global Food Security Act is a step in the right direction but there are still several concerns.
  • Right now it is only authorized for one year, needs to be multi year
  • Needs to include a component for agriculture, nutrition, and rural development for more vulnerable populations and not just those above a certain income level or that have graduated from traditional food assistance programs.
  • Must allow PVOs a lead role in determining the needs of vulnerable populations.

Beans are a favorite food of people throughout the world.

In many cultures, dry beans are a food with a custom of usage dating back thousands of years. Beans are a staple food for a majority of the world’s population and represent a primary source of protein and other important nutrients in South and Central America, Asia, the Indian sub- continent and Africa. In fact, today, beans are part of many national recipes, such as “fiejoada” in Brazil, “Bandera Dominicana” in the Dominican Republic and “Gallo Pinto” in Nicaragua and Costa Rica as well as “Samp and Beans” in Southern Africa.

But beans are not just food. In many countries, production and/or inventories of dry beans are considered to be matters of national security. Dry beans are so important that shortages or large price increases for dry beans are commonly reported in the front pages of local newspapers. Beyond being just food, dry beans are often part of the culture and fabric of a country.

Beans are nutrition powerhouses.

Including beans in a PL 480 Title II or Food for Education ration is a guarantee of improved nutrition. Many highly respected nutritionists have referred to beans as a “superfood.” And for good reason. Beans are nutrient dense. They are a strong source of dietary fiber, which has been shown to help prevent cancer, heart disease and other common ailments. In addition, beans have been found to be rich in compounds called protease inhibitors. These compounds have been shown to make it harder for cancer cells to invade healthy tissue, and this may explain some of the cancer protection effects of many beans. Beans are rich in isoflavones.

Beans are also excellent sources of fiber, which has been shown to be valuable in lowering cholesterol and plaque in the bloodstream. The high fiber content of beans also helps to prevent blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal, making beans a particularly good choice for those who suffer from diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.

Beans offer an excellent source of protein, particularly when combined with another grain choice such as wheat, corn or rice. Beans are high in iron and are an especially important part of the diet where iron deficiency and anemia are common. They are one of the best sources of folate, B vitamins, and antioxidants, all which are essential for reproductive age women. Beans are higher in fiber than other grains, flours, and legumes available under PL-480. They are also a good source of potassium and are low in sodium.

Beans are affordable and cost-competitive.

We realize that selecting commodities to include in your program means weighing a number of factors such as cost, availability, host-country counterpart wishes, and local tastes. Costs may vary depending upon the type of bean that you choose for your program. However, regardless of the variety of bean chosen you can be certain that each is a very cost-competitive choice. From a nutritional standpoint beans are very competitive with other commodities on a cost-per-serving basis. Nutritionally speaking beans are strikingly uniform though there are often minor differences in micronutrient levels.

Beans work well for direct feeding and development programs.

Beans have a long history of use in both direct feeding and development programs around the world. They have been successfully used in Food For Work, Maternal Child Health programs, McGovern- Dole Global Food for Education program and other programs.

Handling and storage of beans

Beans are typically packaged in 25 and 50 kg poly bags that are easy to handle and stack compared to other commodities. They are suitable to crowded storage conditions since they can be stacked relatively high without bursting or causing damage to the bags or the beans.

Shelf life

Beans have a minimum shelf life of one year and will keep indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place. If stored properly they can withstand relatively harsh conditions – even in tropical environments.

Substitutable ordering

USDA and USAID now allow for substituable ordering
of beans. This means that tenders may include more than one class of beans, which maximizes budgets. Substitutable tendering also allows for cooperating sponsors to provide a greater variety of bean choices to recipients.

Whenever possible, we recommend that beans be requested in time to be purchased when prices are at their lowest. Historically, this has been during the period from the harvest season (mid-August to early October) through the end of the year. Garbanzo beans are harvested earlier, in June and July. As with other crops, pricing at any point in time is affected by a myriad of market forces. Please feel free to contact us for advice on the most suitable time period for ordering.

Bean varieties and local preference

It goes without saying that it is imperative to know the dietary habits of local populations when developing food- aid rations. Not all varieties of beans are acceptable to all peoples, and the taste or cultural preferences governing acceptability are often regional as well as national. In this sense, beans are like wheat, rice, corn and other commodities which also have local preferences.

There are so many varieties of U.S. dry beans produced that national and local preferences can almost always be met through careful specification of an appropriate variety. Not only do beans come in many shapes, sizes, textures and colors but the different varieties often also taste very different. Having said that, some varieties share enough characteristics that they can often be substituted for one another, making acceptability of an unknown variety much more palatable than is the case with other commodities. Colored varieties of beans can often be substituted for each other easily. For example, light and dark red kidney beans, pinto and cranberry beans, and pink and small red beans. Likewise, some varieties of white beans can be substituted when there is not a strong cultural preference for a particular size white bean.

Below, we attempt to provide some guidance on bean preferences in particular markets. These lists are not all- inclusive. However, should you need information about which bean type is most suitable in a particular market please contact us and we would be happy to help.

African bean preferences (best choice in bold)

African Bean Preferences

Central America & Caribbean bean preferences

Central American & Caribbean bean preferences