A new report released by researchers at the Freidman School for Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University highlights ways to improve the nutrition quality of U.S. food aid.
According to the lead author Patrick Webb, “There was a bit of an impression that as long as you delivered food, that was enough. And really, what we have been arguing and demonstrating is that, no, just any old food isn’t enough.”
The report, commissioned by the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID) Food for Peace program, was released in April in Washington, D.C.
The report emphasizes the importance of targeting nutritious foods to pregnant women and young children. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed the report’s findings saying, “While good nutrition throughout life is important, science tells us that it is most critical during the 1,000 day window of opportunity.” Adequate nutrition during the first 1000 days of a child’s life—the period from pregnancy to age two—is critical to ensure healthy development and end the cycle of malnutrition. Each year, we can save the lives of one million children by ensuring that pregnant women and young children have access to nutritious foods.
The report also recommends using ready-to-use products when appropriate, adding vitamin D to vegetable oil, and reformulating milled cereals.
Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, said, “Implementing these proposals will help children learn better, grow stronger and achieve their full potential. Optimizing our food aid programs, combined with our Feed the Future Initiative can help us build toward the goal of ending hunger in a generation.”
But some critics argue that the report’s recommendations are not clear enough and that some of these changes will be difficult to introduce. Susan Shepherd of Doctors without Borders says, “While the report acknowledges the value of nutrient-packed ready-to-eat foods for treating malnutrition, it continues to rely on cheaper fortified grain and soybean blends that do not provide enough nutrition for young children.”
USAID will host the International Food Aid and Development Conference in June where policymakers, scientists, development professionals, and industry executives will discuss strategies to implement the report’s recommendations.
By Janeen Madan