Under current law, all U.S. food aid must be spent in the United States and shipped to the recipients, usually on U.S. vessels, which can take as long as six months. By that time, many of those people the food is intended for could be dead of starvation, The New York Times reports.
In Zambia, the World Food Program is struggling to feed people being treated for AIDS. As they recover, they need more to eat.
Opponents of the Bush proposal, which has failed to pass Congress twice, say the U.S. food program, the largest in the world, depends on the backing of agricultural and shipping interests.
"It is a mistake of gigantic proportions, because support for such a program will vanish overnight, overnight," said Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.