Soy-Blended Complementary Food Could Prevent Childhood Stunting and Improve Nutrition in Northern Ghana
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life is a critical window for nutrition. When infants begin to transition from breastfeeding to solid foods at six months, they require additional nutrients, including more protein. If these nutrition needs are not met, malnutrition at this stage can have lifelong consequences on a child’s cognitive and physical development. Typically, from six months onwards, the nutritional needs of growing infants are filled by weaning or complementary foods which complement breast milk’s nutrients. However, in developing countries, there is overdependence on cereal-based foods that don’t deliver enough essential nutrients to a child.
Photo: Orange-fleshed sweet potato.
Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, identifies Ghana as a focus country for development efforts. Compared with the southern half of the country, northern Ghana experiences significantly higher rates of malnutrition and poverty. The 2003, 2008 and 2015 Ghana Demographic and Health Survey Reports found that 30 to 39 percent of children under five are severely stunted in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions. In 2017, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research (Soybean Innovation Lab, SIL) will assess the acceptability and feasibility of a soy-blend complementary food in northern Ghana to support efforts to introduce sustainable early childhood nutrition to the region.
This study will feature varieties of weaning foods made from soy flour and orange-fleshed sweet potato called ComFa, short for Complementary Food for Africa. The food serves 15 grams of high-quality protein, exceeding the minimum daily requirement for infants under one year old. The orange-fleshed sweet potato adds vitamin A, for which northern Ghana is oftentimes deficient. The study will test four different varieties of this food, each with different ingredients: anchovies (called Keta school boys in Ghana), dried moringa (a green-leaved plant high in protein and iron), groundnut and maize.
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