The inclusion of vitamins or minerals to commonly eaten foods, also known as food fortification, has already played a part in reducing micronutrient deficiencies over the past century, with micronutrients such as folate or iodine added to foods like flour and salt. To complement the WFP food basket– the food distributed depending on the needs of the groups – WFP has introduced the fortification of staples. Fortification usually aims to meet adult needs, while vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant and nursing women may require supplements or specially fortified products.
Food fortification increases the content of essential vitamins and minerals in food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and fight micronutrient deficiencies among the poorest. With the support of the Innovation Accelerator, WFP is seeking to scale up rice fortification to countries in West Africa.
Good nutrition is widely recognized to be an essential element in the ability to lead a healthy and productive life. Yet poor nutrition remains a critical global problem: Each year, more children die as a result of undernutrition than of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
Ending malnutrition by 2030 is a core element of the Sustainable Development Goals and underpins WFP’s work towards Zero Hunger. The effects of malnutrition are devastating and far reaching. It not only causes loss of life, but also weakens immune systems and increases risk of disease. It lowers the success rate in education and employment, ultimately leading to the loss of productivity and well-being of communities and nations. It is both a result and driver of poverty and inequality.
Although WFP already provides fortified rice as part of the food basket in places such as Malaysia and Indonesia, it has been largely neglected in regions where micronutrient deficiencies are still persistent, and where rice is increasingly popular such as West Africa. Fortified rice kernels look, taste and cook like ordinary rice and are combined with regular rice at a ratio of 1 to 100. Moreover, the technology to fortify rice has already been developed and consumer acceptability proven.
To help scale this solution, the Innovation Accelerator is supporting WFP's Nutrition Division integrate locally grown and fortified rice into food baskets in Mali. The project aims to test a business model and cost structure for local production that can be scaled across WFP operations worldwide, ensuring that fortified rice is integrated into the WFP food basket as standard commodity.