A Kansas State University research and development proposal to develop new, grain-based food products to improve nutrition and health in developing countries has been selected for funding.
The $3 million award to Kansas State is the largest of the six awards announced by USDA, and it is the only one with a heavy focus on research and development among all awards in this global food security effort through the Micronutrient Fortified Food Aid Products Pilot (MFFAPP) initiative of USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, says Sajid Alavi, principal investigator for the research project.
Alavi, who is an associate professor in Kansas State’s Department of Grain Science and Industry in the College of Agriculture, says MFFAPP is part of the larger McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program administered by FAS.
The project, “Novel Sorghum-based Fortified Blended Foods for Infants and Young Children,” will focus on developing nutritionally sound, fortified blended foods using combinations of corn and soy, sorghum and soy, and sorghum and cowpeas.
The new health-promoting food product will be produced using extrusion cooking technology, and, according to Alavi, the porridge-like food product can be reconstituted with two cups of boiling water anywhere in the world.
Agencies such as the World Food Program use fortified blended foods in their emergency and supplementary feeding programs, he says.
The new food will use previously unutilized grains such as sorghum, and will be fortified with health-promoting vitamins and minerals known to be lacking in the diets of food and nutrient deficient populations in developing countries, Alavi says.
In choosing sorghum as the carrier, he notes that the crop can grow in dry conditions, is not very susceptible to fungal infestation, offers wholesome nutrients, easily lends itself to the new product concept, and is grown in Kansas.
A large share of international food aid shipments are comprised of corn-based fortified mixes or a corn-soy blend, and the United States ships annually approximately 130,000 metric tons of this type of commodity to the developing world.
There is, however, a pressing need to diversify the basket of products available for food aid purposes, and, with this initiative, the Kansas State team will respond directly to the new Food Aid Quality Standards published by the Tufts University in partnership with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) earlier this year, says Alavi, who explained that malnutrition affects an estimated 195 million children worldwide, and is the underlying cause of death of nearly three million children under five years of age. Children under the age of two are the most vulnerable, and without access to nutrient-dense foods necessary for growth and development, they will suffer debilitating lifelong consequences, he says.