Can current food aid commodity formulations meet energy needs for kids?

May 2009

Corn-soy blend, wheat-soy blend, and corn-soy milk are three commodities commonly distributed by the US Agency for International Development for use as complementary foods for infants 6–24 months of age. While the World Health Organization recommends that complementary foods contain an energy density of at least 0.8 kcal/g to meet the daily requirements of a 6–8-month-old infant with average breast milk intake consuming two meals/day, the authors of a study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that achieving adequate energy density with those food aid commodities would require a 20 percent concentration of flour in prepared porridge, which results in a porridge that is too viscous for consumption by an infant. Porridge prepared at 12 percent concentration yielded a more typical porridge but contained only 0.5 kcal/g. Adding dried milk to the flours would reduce viscosity but drive up cost significantly, while adding oil after cooking to reduce viscosity would improve energy density but require reformulation of the commodities to ensure adequate protein and micronutrient consumption. The authors call for new commodity formulations and specifications in order to enable food programs to have an impact on infant nutrition. While the authors do not specifically mention it, the findings also emphasize that common “one size fits all” recommendations for meal frequency and volume can be inappropriate for the type of complementary foods that caregivers use.

Effect of preparation method on viscosity and energy density of fortified humanitarian food-aid commodities