Food air currently constitutes nearly 15% of official development assistance and hence has considerable potential as a stimulant to growth in less-developed countries (LDCs). This paper reviews the evidence on the impact of food aid on growth and its associated factors. While recognizing that the use of food aid is influenced by a constellation of interests in recipient and donor countries, it identifies a set of guiding principles for maximizing the effectiveness of food aid. These include the need for food (relative to other development needs), its level of substitutability with commercial imports, its incorporation in a poverty-oriented development plan, its guaranteed availability and its complementarity with financial aid. Current food air programs recognize the relevance of some of these principles - e.g. the criteria of necessity - but ignore others - notably the need to situate food aid in a comprehensive plan for improving patterns of income distribution in LDCs. 203 notes, 203 references.