ForeignPolicy.com posted an interesting article on food aid and nutrition– particularly food aid in disaster regions– that I think is worth a read. The article’s title is “Let them eat Plumpy’Nut”, a reference to the nutritious, ready-to-use food for treating malnourished children, but the larger argument is one of striking a balance between providing food aid in the most expedient manner possible, and providing food aid that is most nutritious and capable of addressing child nutrition.
Some excerpts below, full piece here:
The problem for many critics of food aid is not the delivery method, though, but the food itself, which critics say is failing to address childhood malnutrition. Last year, MSF convened a seminar at Columbia University to discuss the problem. As Susan Shepherd, nutrition advisor for MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign, put it, “It is unacceptable that current food aid is not providing adequate, nutrient-rich food for the most vulnerable children.” MSF called for an expansion of malnutrition treatment with milk-based, fortified, and energy-dense therapeutic foods, including Plumpy’nut.
Action Against Hunger (AAH) has sometimes teamed with MSF to campaign for more nutritious food, including Plumpy’nut. “There is nothing inherently wrong with the standard corn-soy blend as long as it is enriched with micronutrients and vitamins, which isn’t always the case,” AAH’s senior nutrition advisor, Marie-Sophie Whitney, says. “We shouldn’t be feeding kids anything we wouldn’t feed our own children.”
There’s also the extremely sensitive issue of where the food for aid comes from — and what its effect may be on local trade. AAH charges that U.S. government food aid displaces local farmers by dumping cheap U.S. surplus grain. “Most countries have functioning markets and regional surpluses that go overlooked in the food aid equation,” Whitney says.