General Mills Partners with World Food Program USA to Strengthen World’s Largest School Meals Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. / MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., May 3, 2017 /3BL Media/ - The General Mills Foundation announced a two-year grant with World Food Program USA to support rice fortification efforts in India’s school meals program.
The grant from General Mills will support the World Food Programme (WFP)’s work with local partners in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, where a large proportion of youth exhibit symptoms from malnourishment, including anemia, wasting and stunting. The pilot will enable school meal fortification through multi-micronutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A to approximately 137,031 schoolchildren across the state via the primary mid-day school meal. Two different methods of delivery will be tested against one another to determine which is the most effective: Half of the schools will receive fortified rice cooked onsite, the other half will receive micronutrient powder added to curry dishes served in the schools.
Investing in school meals has proven to generate enormous long-term social and economic gains by improving child nutrition as well as boosting school attendance, enrollment and graduation rates among students, especially girls.
This grant is the latest example of WFP partnering with the private sector on sustainable food solutions that encourage economic growth. Food security is fundamental to commercial success and helps ensure markets continue to expand worldwide. Studies have shown that a dollar invested in hunger prevention returns $15 to $139 in benefits.
“As a global food company, increasing food security is a key philanthropic priority for General Mills,” said Mary Jane Melendez, executive director for the General Mills Foundation. “This fortification project reflects our belief that school meals play a vital role, ensuring that children are nourished and ready to learn,” Melendez said.
With a long track record of ground-breaking, innovative global partnerships, WFP sets a high standard for meaningful private sector relationships that combine technical assistance and knowledge transfer with financial contributions to not only solve global problems, but also to create measurable business outcomes. By investing in zero hunger, companies can help: People in developing markets increase lifetime earnings by 46 percent, workforces increase productivity by 20 percent and countries increase GDP by up to 16.5 percent.
Over the past century, food fortification—adding vitamins or minerals to commonly eaten foods—has helped reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Two examples are folate and iodine being added to flour and salt. But one staple has been largely neglected in fortification efforts: rice, a staple food for half of the world’s population. Studies show that places where rice is a main component of the diet often overlap with areas of widespread micronutrient deficiencies. Globally, more than two billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiencies. This “hidden hunger”—defined as the lack of one or more of the essential vitamins and minerals required for healthy growth, development and functioning—affect all ages and socioeconomic groups.
Rice fortification is similar to the fortification of wheat and maize flour or salt, all of which have been proven effective at a large scale and are recommended by the World Health Organization. In fact, WFP has found that anemia levels have dropped as much as 50% over the past three years in areas across India where the agency has introduced fortified rice. Consumption of fortified rice increases micronutrient intake without requiring families to change their buying, preparation or cooking practices.
“Investing in our children is one of the smartest decisions we can make,” says Rick Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA. “Thanks to the expertise and dedication of companies like this one, thousands of children in need will receive the nutrition and education they need to break the cycle of poverty and hunger.”
About World Food Program USA
World Food Program USA is a 501(c)(3) charity that proudly supports the mission of the World Food Programme, the leading humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Each year, WFP reaches 76 million people with lifesaving food assistance in 80 countries across the globe. By mobilizing individuals, lawmakers and businesses in the U.S. to advance the global movement to end hunger, World Food Program USA bolsters an enduring American legacy of feeding families in need around the world.
About General Mills
General Mills is a leading global food company that serves the world by making food people love. Its brands include Cascadian Farm, Cheerios, Annie’s, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Fiber One, Haagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, General Mills had fiscal 2016 worldwide sales of US $17.6 billion, including the company’s US $1.0 billion proportionate share of joint-venture net sales. For more information about General Mills, visit www.generalmills.com.
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