Food assistance must deliver maximum nutritional benefit

(Copyright: WFP/David Orr)

Even if people have enough to eat, they will become malnourished if the food they eat does not provide them with the right amounts of micronutrients to meet their daily nutritional requirements. Here's a look at the range of highly nutritious products WFP uses to tailor its food assistance to the specific needs of its beneficiaries.

Nutrition considerations cut across all WFP operations and programmes. A common commodity in most WFP food baskets are fortified staples, fortified condiments and fortified blended foods like corn soya blend (CSB). All of these products are fortified with important micronutrients to prevent micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition, or avert a deterioration of malnutrition levels.

WFP also uses various nutritional products, including the aforementioned fortified commodities, to supplement the food intake of vulnerable groups, particularly young children, pregnant and lactating women and the chronically ill.

To meet the needs of young children 6–59 months of age, special ready-to-use supplementary foods have been developed. Different varieties are used for different target groups. Examples are “Plumpy’Doz” which is provided for children at their most vulnerable age of 6–24 months to prevent malnutrition or “Supplementary Plumpy” which is distributed to children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition to prevent them from slipping into severe malnutrition.

High Energy Biscuits

Another form of food that is ready to use are high-energy biscuits. Since these fortified biscuits are easy to distribute and provide a quick solution to improve the level of nutrition they are mainly used in the first days of an emergency when cooking facilities are scarce. As with Plumpy products the risk of contamination is also limited because no cooking is required.

The newest addition to the WFP “nutrition toolbox” is micronutrient powder (also known as “sprinkles”). This tasteless powder contains vitamins and minerals and can be sprinkled onto home-prepared food by the beneficiaries themselves. It is a viable option when households already have some food but this food lacks important micronutrients and does not meet the nutritional needs of all or of specifically vulnerable household members. 

Photo gallery: nutritional products used by WFP

My next posts will focus on how WFP applies these nutritional products in emergency situations where nutritional assistance is particularly important - GF