United States - Nutrition

The US is the largest donor to nutrition globally and funding is mainly provided through US global health and food security programs 

Global nutrition is a priority of US development efforts. There are several key documents that guide the US government’s work on nutrition, which is led by the US Agency for International Development (USAID): 

  • The Joint Strategic Plan 2022-2026 of the State Department and USAID refers to “enhancing food security and nutrition,” as a cross-sectoral, cross-agency priority;  
  • USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy 2014-2025 sets goals across US nutritional initiatives, addresses direct and underlying causes of malnutrition, and highlights the importance of linking development and humanitarian assistance to increase the impact of US global nutrition efforts. Broadly, it identifies three priorities in line with the 2025 World Health Assembly Nutrition Targets: 1) decrease chronic malnutrition, measured by stunting; 2) maintain the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) below 15%; and 3) decrease malnutrition in women of reproductive age and children under five, with a focus on the 1,000-day window between the beginning of pregnancy and the child’s second birthday;  
  • The US Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan 2021-2026 aims to strengthen the impact of the diverse US nutrition portfolio “through better communication and collaboration and by linking research to program implementation;” and 
  • The 2016-2025 Food Assistance and Food Security Strategy, from USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, outlines two key strategic objectives for the program: 1) improving and sustaining food security and 2) embracing nutritional security. It supports Feed the Future and other US-related strategies and objectives. 

The US is the single largest donor to global nutrition efforts according to the 2021 Global Nutrition Report. The US disbursed US$3.5 billion in 2019 (latest data available) for nutrition-sensitive interventions. This is a 9% decrease from 2018 when nutrition spending sat at US$3.9 billion.  

Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the US provided US$112 million in ‘basic nutrition’ support in 2020, down from US$144 million in 2019 (projects that are reported to the OECD Creditor’s Reporting System database under the ‘basic nutrition’ purpose code). US funding to nutrition increased significantly between 2010 and 2018, largely due to elevated attention to the issue through Feed the Future (see sector: ‘Agriculture’) but has started to decline in recent years. Funding for basic nutrition has declined since a peak of US$297 million in 2015 to US$112 million in 2020. 

Since 2009, the US government has had a nutrition-specific budget line in the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) bill, which provides funding for basic nutrition, channeled bilaterally. The FY2023 budget request is US$150 million for basic nutrition, level with the FY2021 enacted total and down from US$155 million in FY2022. 

In June 2022, the US Senate Appropriations committee approved the FY2023 Agriculture Appropriations bill, authorizing funding for two international food assistance bills: the Food for Peace program and the McGovern-Dole child education and nutrition program, both of which help combat malnutrition and hunger around the globe. The Food for Peace program (PL 480 Title II) was funded at  the House-passed level of US$1.8 billion and above what President Biden proposed (US$1.7 billion), which should ensure that final funding levels will be above FY2022 levels. This bill marks the highest-ever commitment to the Food for Peace program, which is particularly important in the wake of rising global food insecurity exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The McGovern-Dole program was approved at US$265 million: US$35 million above the President's request and US$28 million above FY2022 enacted levels. 

In September 2021, at the UN Food Systems Summit, the US pledged US$5.0 billion over five years for the Feed the Future (FTF) program, the US government's global hunger and food security program, which works with partners in the private sector and local actors. FTF aims to achieve “inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth”; “strengthened resilience among people and systems”; and a “well-nourished population, especially among women and children.” An additional US$1.0 billion will be invested in the next five years in combatting food insecurity and bolstering agriculture. In addition, President Joe Biden announced that the US is expanding FTF to 20 priority countries (see ‘Agriculture’) and providing an additional US$760 million in funding to “combat the effects of high food, fuel, and fertilizer prices” due to the Russian war in Ukraine.  

In December 2021, at the Tokyo-based Nutrition for Growth Summit, the US pledged US$11.0 billion over three years to fight global malnutrition. The commitment is subject to Congressional appropriations. The funding will go toward programming efforts to expand data, address food waste, scale-up breastfeeding for maternal and newborn care, and enhance food fortification efforts for better nutrition. 

USAID leads nutrition efforts, coordinating a ‘whole-of-government’ approach

USAID leads the US’ nutrition efforts, which are largely integrated through the agency’s work in global health, food security and assistance, and agriculture. US global nutrition activities primarily occur within the framework of Feed the Future and for food assistance through Food for Peace.  

Three bureaus within USAID are responsible for most nutrition work. The Bureau for Global Health houses the Office of Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition. Following USAID’s internal reorganization (see ‘Policy Priorities’), the newly formed Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (BRFS) now leads on coordination of Feed the Future. It also houses the new Centre for Nutrition. The Food for Peace Office will move to the newly announced Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) once operational. Both the BRFS and the BHA will report to an Associate Administrator for Relief, Response, and Resilience (R3 Bureau), supporting the cross-coordination of their work. Additionally, for the first time, USAID has named a Chief Nutritionist, who sits within BRFS.   

The Department of Agriculture funds Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program. The Department implements the latter through the Foreign Agricultural Service.  

Other US development cooperation programs, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), also provide some nutrition support both in terms of financing and implementation. 

US Congress authorizes, oversees, and funds the US government’s nutrition-specific funding as well as for related programs within Feed the Future through its annual SFOPS. It does not specify an overall funding level for Feed the Future, but rather allocates funds separately for related activities and accounts, including nutrition, global health programs (implemented by USAID), bilateral food security and agriculture activities (implemented by USAID, MCC, and other agencies), and related multilateral organizations.