The objective of the Food Aid Quality Review project is to develop a consensus surrounding food aid’s nutrient specifications and formulations among a range of stakeholder groups, among which are key officials at USAID and USDA, who can ensure the implementation of recommendations emerging from the project recommendations. This project takes account of advances in nutrition and biological sciences alongside developments in food technology to make available cost-effective commodities tailored to meet the needs of people living in developing countries.
The Food Aid Quality Review (FAQR) is part of a series of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) activities aimed at enhancing product choice under Title II of Public Law 480 (PL480), which provides donated foods to improve nutritional status of vulnerable populations, improving quality control and assurance (of both processes and products), and updating technical guidance and the evidence base for programming approaches. The USAID Office of Food for Peace (FFP) awarded the FAQR contract to Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in 2009.
FAQR Phase I, conducted from 2009 to 2011, examined the nutritional needs of beneficiary populations across the developing world and the nutritional quality of commodities currently available to meet those needs, with the objective of improving the quality of Title II food aid commodities and programming. The findings of FAQR Phase I were published as a report, Delivering Improved Nutrition: Recommendations for Changes to U.S. Food Aid Products and Programs (USAID, April 2011), which is available at www.foodaidquality.pbworks.com and at http://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/agriculture-and-food-security/food-assistance/resources/research-and-policy-papers. “In 2011, we completed a food aid quality review in partnership with Tufts University that resulted in the most far-reaching improvements to U.S. food aid since 1966.” Remarks by former USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, April 10, 2013. That led to FAQR Phase II’s focus on reformulating Fortified Blended Foods (FBFs), the inclusion of lipid-based products in FFP’s commodity list, and testing new products under field conditions. A full summary of FAQR Phase II accomplishments are highlighted in the Food Aid Quality Review Phase II Closeout Report (forthcoming, April 2016).
FAQR Phase III will conclude Phase II activities, while also responding to additional (new) FFP priorities. FAQR Phase III will focus on generating links between research on food product formulation with recommendations on cost-effective programming and policy-level action among national and multilateral institutions engaged in food assistance. Tufts will work closely with several key domestic and international collaborators, USAID, USDA, and with United Nations (UN) partners, all of which are committed to strengthening the evidence base for use of specialized food products for targeted nutrition goals.
The framework for FAQR III focuses on Products, Programming, and Processes:
FAQR will examine such mission-critical issues as: how food matrices affect bioavailability of nutrients and digestibility of products; the potential for thermal/non-thermal processing technologies to improve food matrices; potential roles for existing products that are rarely used today, as well as new products (which may include fortificant powders) and novel packaging technologies to improve resistance to infestation, shelf life, and efficiency of handling; dual-use products for emergency response; completion of the data collection, analysis, and reporting on field studies that assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of various newly formulated food products.
FAQR will focus on program cost-effectiveness of various intervention designs. This will include strategy development for pre-positioned food stocks, guidance on options for deployment of specialized products, elaboration of a strategy for responding to food needs in the initial stages of a sudden onset emergency, and dissemination of cost calculation tools. It will also generate improved technical guidance, share details on research protocols used in testing new products, finalize specification templates, and address food quality assurance monitoring. A formal assessment of FAQR’s progress during FAQR II will lead to an ‘Evidence Summit’ in FY18 to share widely and discuss all empirical findings and recommendations from the FAQR as a whole.
FAQR III will provide recommendations on institutional and industry processes, including the institutionalization and strengthening of interagency technical consultation processes, mechanisms to ensure greater policy and product harmonization (domestically and internationally), providing recommendations for enhanced supply chain oversight, establishing stronger and more user-friendly quality assurance feedback loops, as well as promoting food safety and quality standards that can also be applied to local and regional food procurement.