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We describe our efforts in optimizing global food aid operations using mathematical programing in collaboration with UN World Food Program and USAID for over 15 years.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, reaching approximately 90 million people with food assistance across 80 countries each year. We describe a mixed integer linear programming model that simultaneously optimizes the food basket to be delivered, the sourcing plan, the delivery plan, and the transfer modality of a long-term recovery operation for each month in a predefined time horizon. By connecting traditional supply chain elements to nutritional objectives, we are able to make significant breakthroughs in the operational excellence of WFP’s most complex operations. We show three examples of how the optimization model is used to support operations: (1) to reduce the operational costs in Iraq by 12\% without compromising the nutritional value supplied, (2) to manage the scaling-up of the Yemen operation from three to six million beneficiaries, and (3) to identify sourcing strategies during the El Niño drought of 2016.

Each year, the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plays a vital role in the global distribution of food aid. However, meeting the increasing demand with finite resources remains a persistent challenge. We examine the USAID global food aid supply chain, focusing on its multi-echelon, multi-commodity, and multi-modal nature. We adopt a multi-stage stochastic programming model to optimize warehouse locations and safety stock levels. This model integrates pre-disaster pre-positioning with post-disaster inventory replenishment, effectively catering to both deterministic (ongoing) and stochastic (sudden-onset) demands. Leveraging Variational Recurrent Autoencoders (VRAE) and Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) networks, our approach enhances demand pattern analysis and realistic scenario planning. We aim to optimize BHA/FFP's food aid procurement, prepositioning, and distribution strategies, thereby enhancing the resiliency and responsiveness of USAID's global food aid operations.