The fight against childhood stunting in South Africa
The term 'Silent Hunger' is used when people have access to food but not nutrients. Their tummies are filled, but their bodies cannot grow to their full potential due to nutrient-poor food intake.
Child stunting is due to chronic malnutrition and is a major problem in low and middle income countries. This is due to inadequate nutrition-related practices and insufficient access to services. Limited budgets for nutritional interventions mean that available resources must be targeted in the most cost-effective manner to have the greatest impact.
It is especially pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as small growing children who require daily access to proper growth nutrients. When they are exposed to silent hunger for certain periods, these children can become stunted, causing irreversible cognitive, physical and mental disabilities.
What do pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as growing children need in their diets?
Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. Examples of whole foods include whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Animal sourced foods are particularly important. Infants, young children and adolescents are undergoing periods of physiological change and accelerated growth. Pregnant and lactating women have higher nutrient requirements due to fetal growth and milk production.
Milk and other dairy products are excellent protein sources for children. There are a variety of vitamins and minerals which support growth and development during childhood. Calcium, obtained from milk and dairy products and from dark green, leafy vegetables, is usually sufficient nutritionally in the diets of young children.
We understand why parents in poverty-stricken communities cannot supply the nutritional needs of their children. We also understand why donors and buyers focused on feeding children in deprived communities are so constrained to make better choices with their limited budgets.
The other challenge faced is the palatability of the meal. You can have the healthiest meal on earth – if it is not tasty, children will not eat it. Carbs have no taste, so salt and sugar – plenty of sugar - needs to be added in order for children to eat it. And that is our biggest fight: To stop giving fortified sugary carbs to people that have no other choice when it comes to getting their tummies filled!
For R2.00 per 50g portion (or R40.00/month) a poor, growing child can enjoy a high protein StartWell Nutrient-dense cereal during school days. Due to our Non-Profit processing model, this cost is lower than maize-soya-sugar blends offered by large feeding organizations.
The meal exceeds the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for proteins a growing child requires. It carries a combination of animal-sourced and plant-based and proteins. The bioavailability of the dairy, whole-grain and pulse proteins are excellent. The StartWell Nutrient-dense meal is highly palatable and desirable to children and adults of all walks of life. It comes in 5 flavours and is packed in 2kg, 5kg and 10kg re-sealable zip-lock bags.