Canada has announced $350 million in new funding to help feed the world’s hungry for the next five years.

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda said Wednesday Canada will give the United Nations World Food Program $25 million per year for the next five years for its humanitarian emergency food aid programs, and its school meals program will get $25 million per year for the next four years. The United Nations agency and the federal government formalized the $225-million in funding in an agreement they said will help reduce hunger and improve nutrition for millions of people affected by poverty, natural disasters and conflicts.

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World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran and International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda signed a funding agreement worth $225 million on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 and held a news conference the following day to announce it. (Canadian International Development Agency)

"Canada has made food security a focus because the food security challenges we face today are not diminishing, in fact, they’re getting greater," Oda said at a news conference on Parliament Hill.

Canada is the second-largest donor to the World Food Program, which relies completely on donations of money and food to operate. The organization helps more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries every year.

The World Food Program's executive director, Josette Sheeran, was at the announcement and said because the organization depends on donations, it never knows how much money it will have from year to year to help the world's starving people.

Agreement means predictable funding

"This agreement today gives us some predictiabilty to be able to manage that lifeline. This is not only about saving lives, it’s about smart aid. It is not only about that emotional solidarity but it’s about effectiveness and efficiency," she said.

"With this agreement we’ll be able to look at how to save lives but also how to break the cycle of hunger at its root," she added.

The World Food Program estimates there are at least 66 million hungry elementary school-age children in the world. Its school meals program aids more than 22 million children by providing daily meals, and in some cases sending children home with food to improve family nutrition and increase enrollment.

The federal government also committed Wednesday to donate $125 million to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, an organization made up of 15 church-based agencies that work in developing countries. It collects grain and cash donations and provides expertise for food security aid projects. The contribution from Ottawa is to be spread over five years.

"This funding will enable the Foodgrains Bank to reach many more people with ood and other assi and also to do it in a timely way," executive director Jim Cornelius said.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank has received funding for its work from the Canadian International Development Agency since 1983.

Both the Foodgrains Bank and the World Food Program are providing relief in the Horn of Africa where drought, high food prices and conflict are causing a famine that is affecting 13 million people.