News / USA

US to Supply Healthier Food to World's Hungry

Focus is on proper nutrition for the 1st 1,000 days of life

A Bangladeshi man receives food aid from USAID following Cyclone Sidr in 2007.
A Bangladeshi man receives food aid from USAID following Cyclone Sidr in 2007.


New recommendations call for significant changes in the nutritional content of foods the United States delivers to the world's hungry.

The United States is the world's largest supplier of food aid, reaching 55 million people in 46 countries last year, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

That assistance has saved millions of lives over the years.

But Tufts University nutrition expert Patrick Webb says, "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."

Webb says that's especially true for young children, who have greater nutritional needs in the first thousand days of life. In the new report commissioned by USAID and released Tuesday in Washington, Webb and his colleagues note that malnutrition in the period from the womb to age two can cause irreparable damage to a child's growth and brain development. That in turn affects a child's ability to learn and ultimately lowers national productivity.

The report recommends more nutritious foods for children under two and pregnant women.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah says the report may lead to significant changes. "We'll look specifically into the recommendations into how to get more animal protein into foods so kids don't just get calories, but get the nutrition they need for brain development and human growth."

The report also recommends improving the vitamin and mineral content of grains and oils. Those are relatively easy fixes that may reach beneficiaries this year. But adding animal protein to food targeted for young children is more difficult to accomplish.

A man receives 50 kilograms of US sorghum in southern Ethiopia during 2010.
A man receives 50 kilograms of US sorghum in southern Ethiopia during 2010.

"Unfortunately, there are manufacturing challenges that come to bear, looking at things like shelf life as well as cost," says Stephen Moody, USAID food technology expert.

But Susan Shepherd with the humanitarian group Doctors without Borders says the report does not go far enough.  

"It's not at all clear to me that this report is making a strong stand in terms of improving the quality of foods they're trying to give to children," she says.

Shepherd adds that 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.

And she says it does not provide aid workers with enough guidance on using ready-to-eat foods.

"If I read this report as somebody in the field, it's all over the map," she says. "I don't know what I should be using when. And as long as they keep focusing on how much it costs, how much it costs, how much it costs, then these kids are never going to get what they need."

But USAID officials say they are already seeing benefits in programs that are currently following the report's recommendations. They say within a year other programs will start to see changes that will fight malnutrition more effectively among some of the world's most vulnerable people.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs