Non-Profit Food Processing Plant Explained
"Let's get down to business"
This well-known statement is the problem when it comes to food manufacturing for the poor. When processing food for the poor with a profit motive, there is only one outcome:
Let's explore ready-to-eat product suppliers to feeding schemes for a moment. The company with the cheapest products will be awarded large contracts. To make money, stay competitive and in business, companies are forced to innovate towards finding the cheapest solutions. This dynamic skews the attention towards serving the shareholder interests and away from the consumer's needs. Very little innovation, care and attention go to the well-being of impoverished consumers or toddlers.
To create a shift in focus towards the ingredients in the recipes, we removed the shareholders and replaced them with beneficiaries in the business structure. Now more efforts are guaranteed to go into finding innovative and cost-effective ways to design healthy products. It is our business to work for our beneficiaries.
The Inani StartWell Foundation NPC built a first-of-its-kind, not-for-profit food extrusion, fortification and packaging plant in Springs, South Africa. Now we can take control and innovate towards increasing the nutritional value of our products while keeping them cost-effective.
The malnourished, growing children in South Africa are the true beneficiaries of our efforts!
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?