This week, UN World Food Program issued a bleak warning: In the future, the WFP said, there will be food on the shelves. It’s just that many won’t be able to afford it.

As food prices have spiked–in some places, by up to 40%–the WFP announced that its $2.9 billion budget is no longer enough to maintain even current food deliveries, much less expand. Last year to take one example, with the rising cost of fuel and food prices, the United States purchased less than half the amount of food aid it did in 2000.

But in the case of the U.S., it doesn’t have to be that way. Currently, existing U.S. rules mandate that at least 75% of its food aid be grown and packaged in the United States (that is, benefit U.S. producers) before being shipped across the sea. Accordingly, the cost in transport–particularly as oil prices have risen–is extraordinary. (A recent GAO study reported shipping costs account for 65% of total program expenditures for the largest U.S. food emergency program.) These days as the UN scrambles to ration food, as the Bush administration has proposed (and Congress has rejected), it’d be a much more charitable gesture for the U.S. to step up what it buys locally–where it’s needed.