There are a number of ways to improve nutrition for all ages and from all points of the supply chain from farm to fork – that is from the very moment our food is grown, to its transportation, processing, storage and distribution. This is an incredibly dynamic space, with new research and innovations driving progress to reach more people with more nutritious foods and products.
Getting good nutrition in the earliest stages of life puts kids on the right start. That’s why breastfeeding is more than simply providing food. Breastfeeding is an important means to protect children from illness and even death. Breastfed infants are much less likely to die from diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and other diseases. Breastfeeding supports infants’ immune systems and helps protect from chronic conditions later in life such as obesity and diabetes. Sub-optimum breastfeeding still accounts for an estimated 1.4 million deaths in children under five annually, according to the Lancet 2008 Nutrition Series. We are committed to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and UNICEF on optimal infant and young child feeding practices, including the early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continued breastfeeding for at least two years with the timely introduction of adequate and safe nutritious semi-solid foods starting at 6 months.
As children add semi-solid foods into their diets after exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, they must continue to get the essential nutrients they need early in life to help them grow and develop and reach their full potential. There are a number of international standards and guidelines regulating this area of work including the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius.
Home nutrition packets are a proven cost-effective way for mothers around the world to get essential nutrients into their children’s and their own diets. These small packets containing a combination of vitamins and minerals – such as Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc - can be produced locally and cost-effectively. The packets cost as little as 3 cents each, making them affordable and allowing families to continue to eat the local foods they eat every day rather than replacing them with new and expensive options.
Of course food is at the very center of nutrition! Yet while gains in food production (specifically in agricultural yields) have helped to feed our growing global population, micronutrient deficiencies and under nutrition persist. What’s needed is a focus on the quality of food, not solely the quantity. With a focus on linking agriculture and nutrition, we can improve the nutritional quality of food from the moment it is grown to the time it is consumed.
Adding – or fortifying – the foods we eat everyday (aka staple foods) with vitamins and minerals is an important low-cost strategy to reduce malnutrition around the world. Examples of fortified staple foods include iodized salt, maize meal and wheat flour fortified with folic acid and iron, vegetable oil fortified with vitamin A, even soy sauce fortified with iron.
Did you know in the U.S. a number of foods have been fortified for decades?
To learn more about large-scale food fortification, check out GAIN’s National Food Fortification Program.
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