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Aid that helps

June 15, 2008

Re "Feed to lead," editorial, June 9

An intelligent food diplomacy program will not work if it operates on the principle, as The Times asserts, that America will win friends and "confound our enemies by showing the world that the United States is the sole superpower when it comes to generosity." This attitude angers and alienates people around the world.

Current food-aid policy does not address the underlying causes of the global food crisis. Policy decisions that directly hurt the poor include increased demand for biofuels, encouraging the shifting of local food production into cash crops, dumping U.S. commodities into impoverished countries, undermining domestic agriculture and requiring aid recipients to spend on U.S. goods and use U.S. shipping.

An intelligent food program should have benchmarks and accountability for demonstrating measurable improvement in the lives of the poorest people. It should authorize local purchases of food aid and direct cash transfers, leveraging the investment of food aid dollars. Establishing a Cabinet-level Department of Global Development would focus on foreign-assistance reforms, establish efficiency standards and maintain a clear focus on ending poverty.

Naomi Benghiat

Dina Ormenyi

Woodland Hills

The United States has already attempted using advertising to create trust, only to have each effort foiled when our target audience received much stronger counter-messages from those who wished us not to succeed. The Bush administration's actions made that easy.

With a new, more truthful administration, we can try again in those places where our food-aid programs have made a difference -- where what people see matches what we say.

David Russell

Pacific Palisades

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