Non-Profit Food Processing Plant Explained
'Let's get down to business'
This well-known statement is the precise problem when it comes to manufacturing food for the poor. When doing so with a profit motive, one of two things will happen:
If the selling price is sensitive, the ingredients have to be selected (and deselected) to optimise the profit margins. So expensive nutrient values will be affected.
On the other hand, should the product be based on the best possible nutrients, the cost will be impacted due to the margin structure. This product now becomes too expensive to deliver to the most needy.
In both the above scenarios, vulnerable and hungry people are the victims. A typical catch 22!
So let's take away the shareholders and profit chasing executives. Be bold enough to keep the best ingredients necessary to nurture needy bodies but still keep it affordable. You might think this is impossible. Good news! There is a way. Manufacturing within a not-for-profit structure.
This is what the Inani StartWell Foundation achieved by building the first of its kind, not-for-profit food processing plant in Springs, South Africa. We will not compromise on ingredient value, but we do not have to as no shareholders need to benefit from our sales. The hungry children of South Africa are the only beneficiaries!
Current State of Affairs
We know that many parents cannot fully provide for their own children’s daily nutritional needs. School Feeding Schemes then act as nutritional safety nets to the children growing up in these impoverished communities.
In South Africa, almost all School Feeding Scheme Operators serve pre-cooked or ready-to-eat cereals as morning meals. The Feeding Schemes buy these ready-to-eat cereals from large food processors.
The large food processors design recipes which they process, brand and sell.
They make the decision to include or exclude specific ingredients. Their decisions are largely commercially driven. Ingredient costs, shelf life, availability, and ultimately the profitability of their organisation is key.
Currently, all large food processor’s innovation efforts involving ready-to-eat cereals are aimed at finding the lowest-cost solutions. This is crucial to win contracts and continue supplying the Feeding Schemes. This is a classical ‘race to the bottom’.
Almost always the lowest cost solutions are found in maize-sugar-salt blends. In very few cases recipes will also contain sorghum and soya. All these solutions are considered nutrient-poor, energy-rich. In laymen’s terms, these are very poor quality vegan meals.
Often bold claims are made around micro-nutrient fortification content (vitamins and minerals). These claims impress the uninformed.
The South African Child Gauge 2020 states:
Big food corporations are expanding into the global South, targeting children as consumers and flooding local markets with cheap ultra-processed foods - low in nutrients, high in sugar, salt and fat - which are fuelling a rapid rise in obesity and NCD's (non-communicable diseases).
Most South African children now live in communities where healthy foods are no longer available or affordable.
By December 2020, child hunger had increased by 50% in South Africa with 1 in 6 households reporting that children went hungry in the last seven days because there wasn't enough food.
It is down to feeding schemes to provide them food, and the sad truth is that many just keep on giving the same starchy, nutrient-poor meals day in and day out!
Micronutrients can never compensate for insufficient proteins and fats in meals.
Now the Question Begs
How can breakfast cereals offered to poor children via school feeding schemes be improved meaningfully? How do we fix inadequate recipe formulation?