The Indian government led the effort, seeking food and grain from the U.S. to offset so many failed crops. It established more than 20,000 “fair-price” stores that regulated prices so poor families could afford the food they needed to survive, and it facilitated other measures to mitigate the crisis. The effort was massive. Newspaper accounts of the day reported that shipments of U.S. grain reached 20,000 tons per day early in 1966, and more than doubled to 50,000 at the peak of relief efforts. So many relief ships were coming in and out of India’s ports so frequently that “traffic jams” were common. The coordinated relief effort was historic and effective. The Washington Post reported that catastrophe was prevented by “one of the biggest and most successful relief operations ever undertaken.” India avoided a worst-case scenario, leading The Economist magazine to declare the crisis “the greatgrim famine that wasn’t.” The coordinated response solidified the relationship between CARE and USAID, positioning CARE as one of the government agency’s largest partners. Tim Lavelle of CARE arrived on the ground in India’s Tamil Nadu state a few years later, in 1973. He and other key players — from CARE, USAID and the Indian government — found a strong cooperative platform from which to administer long-term development efforts through the 1970s and beyond. The CARE-USAID relationship has evolved beyond this era — to address constantly shifting complex issues — but many of the core principles and best practices applied during the 1960s and ‘70s still apply to a collaborative model that is built to last for generations.

From aid to impact

Lavelle, a former Peace Corps volunteer, began working with CARE in 1969, serving in Latin America and the Middle East before arriving in Tamil Nadu. He filled many roles with CARE over the next two decades before transitioning to USAID in 1990. Today he leads the agency’s Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from Washington, D.C. Lavelle’s work in Tamil Nadu centered on food assistance and health care, and like the Bihar response, the programs he helped manage were huge. One provided midday meals for schoolchildren, and another was an outreach program called Integrated Child Development Services, which provides food, preschool education and health care to children under 6 and their mothers.The programs succeeded, Lavelle says, because of partnership: CARE, USAID and the public sector all bought in to the work at hand, programmatically and financially.“We were feeding 2.5 million children a day,” Lavelle says. “These were very large programs, and we had a very good partnership with the state government.”By contributing American-grown food as part of USAID’s Title II food- assistance program, CARE funded half of the 200 feeding days in Tamil Nadu schools. The state government directly funded the other half, but it also covered many of CARE’s administrative costs, thus freeing up funds that CARE could invest in other crucial programs. “Nowadays, when we talk about local government ownership, when we talk about things like ‘domestic resource mobilization,’ if you go back to CARE in India in the 1970s and ’80s, you would see those kinds of things, where the governments of respective states were putting up a sizable percentage of the money required to run those programs,” Lavelle says.

“The midday meal program was so successful that Tamil Nadu expanded it to all urban areas in the state, more than tripling the number of schoolchildren who were being nourished, both mind and body, every day.

Lavelle says the government understood the importance of keeping kids in school, not only for their academic development, but for their health and physical development. When kids are well fed in the lunchroom, they’re better equipped to learn inthe classroom. And as long as they’rein school, they can be vaccinated and protected against threats like vitamin A deficiency that can lead to night blindness and other illnesses. “So the school becomes an experimentin development,” Lavelle says.


When children are well-fed, they are better able to learn. School feeding programs were an early cornerstone in CARE and USAID’s efforts throughout India. CARE Archive