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The story of corn-soy-sugar blends
Newsletter • Wednesday 26 August 2020

Dear Friend

In South Africa, feeding schemes rely on maize and soya to feed impoverished children. Maize is our cheap and available staple. Soya acts as a cost-effective protein source. Feeding schemes overclaim that they provide daily 'healthy and nutritious' meals to impoverished and hungry children. 

How true is this claim?

What does a growing child need?

Food scientists agree that protein is an essential macro-nutrient for human growth. They also agree that animal-sourced proteins are best for growing children. Animal-sourced proteins carry all the essential amino acids and are bio-available to humans. 

This is key as it means growing children can digest them.

What exactly is Soya?

If the answer is so simple, why do feeding schemes rely on this substitute food source?

Soya is a legume from the pea family, produced by commercial farmers at scale. During the last 50 years, global soya production has grown tenfold from 27 to 280 million tons. Production will continue growing at 5-6% per annum in the next decade. Soya serves a wide range of global industries including; animal feed, aquafeed, biofuel, food and beverages, personal care, dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, coatings, paints, industrial solvents, adhesives, hydraulic fluids, building materials, and others.

Read more on Industry ARC: Soybean Market Report 

You might ask: “But East-Asian countries have been using soyabeans since time immemorial with wonderful longevity and health outcomes? ...”

Contrary to what you may have heard, traditionally Asians did not consume large amounts of soya. They used small quantities as a condiment or seasoning (like soya sauce). Never as a primary protein source. The type of soy they consumed was fermented. The slow fermentation processes broke down soya’s anti-nutrients to enable human digestion. The Japanese still only consume about two teaspoons of soya per day!

Vegans trust soya to provide dietary proteins without hurting the environment. It's fine when you are a grown-up and your diet consists of tofu, soymilk, tempeh, or 'plant-based patties' @ R199/kg. It is also OK if you have the means and access to a variety of other plant-based dietary proteins.

Currently, humans consume only about 6% of total soya production. The soya industry vigorously promotes soya for human consumption. Academics publish more than 2000 soy-related peer-reviewed articles every year. Most suggesting health benefits. It is not difficult to guess the funding source for all these studies!

Soy advocates often make bold claims like:

“Soybean is a near-perfect replacement of dairy” and, 

“Soy protein is a complete protein in that it meets all the essential amino acid requirements to support normal growth and development of infants and children”.

Think twice before you just blindly believe this.

The history behind soya in feeding scheme meals

Fresh or frozen animal-sourced foods were not always available. The food processing industry came to the rescue during the 1930s. Raw soybeans cannot be digested. They must be fermented, sprouted or cooked for 3 hours. Extrusion cooking made substitute or ‘stand-in’ meals possible. Soya mince, breakfast cereals and dry pasta ‘stand-in’ meals served several new purposes. Soya tastes like cardboard. Loads of sugar and other flavourings are needed to make it edible (this is another can of worms we can explore later).

Read more
How to stop stunting?

350 000 South African children are added to the ‘stunting pool’ every year.

Like following the beats of a metronome, we cannot miss any ‘growth-nutrient-access-beats’ during the critical growth phase of a child.

The highest growth rates start pre-birth and continue towards 6-years of age. By then the brain is approximately 95% the size of the adult brain. Growth nutrients’ must be available uninterrupted during these six formative years.

There is a solution with ready-to-eat meals!

Feeding schemes need affordable and nutrient-dense ready-to-eat alternatives to corn-soy-sugar blends.

Pre-cooked recipes should contain a variety of whole grains, whole legumes and a selection of dried dairy products. 

Pre-cooked recipes should carry bio-available plant-based and animal-sourced proteins. 

Only then will it deliver daily growth nutrients to children growing up in impoverished communities. 

Yes, also add micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to address possible deficiencies. Micro-nutrient fortification is easy and inexpensive and should never be the focus of health claims on packaging.

    Further solutions lie in the non-profit business model:

    • It creates focus on nutritional content rather than profits.
    • The lower cost structure enables the inclusion of animal-sourced proteins.
    • It will sell incrementally better quality at pioneering low prices to the feeding scheme market
    We can stop stunting!
    We have much work to do!

    Friendly regards,

    More readings:

    1. UNICEF’s RSA Report - 2020
    2. Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition’s Report on the Role of Animal Sourced Foods to Prevent Undernutrition
    3. ARC Report on the Soy Industry
    4. NCBI Report on Soy and health

    The Meal

    StartWell is a highly nutritious morning meal aimed for underprivileged communities in South Africa. Due to the value of the ingredients, the product is too expensive to be channeled through normal retail and government sponsored feeding schemes. Therefore, an innovative business model was designed and endorsed by various industry specialists and social impact strategists.

    Learn more
    Inani Start Well Foundation
    Registered NGO: 207-917 NPO

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