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Hormel Develops Targeted Nutrition Solution for Guatemalan Children

Bob Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Energy & Environment
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This post is sponsored by Hormel Foods. Opinions are my own.

Everything from cars, to buildings, to agriculture seems to be getting smarter these days, eliminating excessive use of energy, water or fertilizer. Why not do the same thing with nutrition? That was how the Spammy project was born, a targeted nutrition product developed by Hormel Foods to specifically meet the needs of hungry children in Guatemala.

Many companies today have established philanthropic foundations and programs as an element of their corporate social responsibility platform. Typically their philanthropic activities are aligned with their corporate mission, which is tied to the types of products and services they offer.

For Hormel, a food company, whose numerous brands tend to feature animal protein products, that mission is tied to ending hunger through a program that Kelly Braaten, Hormel’s ‎manager of external communications calls, “On Our Way to Ending Hunger.”

The program has three elements: Nourish, Collaborate and Motivate. That program has now yielded a rather unique effort, consisting of multiple collaborations, substantial motivation of employees and members of impacted communities, and an entirely new food product, Spammy, developed specifically to address a targeted need.

For starters, the collaborations, which included those with USDA, Caritas and with the CeSSIUM International Nutrition Foundation, helped to identify Guatemala as a prime target for an outreach effort. Guatemala has a poverty rate above 50 percent and a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 14, which is considered serious. Upon investigation, the partners found that while Guatemalan children generally receive enough calories, they lack protein, which made them an ideal candidate for food aid from Hormel. Further studies also identified other nutrients that were lacking.

Melissa Bonorden, a senior nutritionist at Hormel, who is a member of the Spammy development team, filled us in on some of the details of the Nourish aspect of the program. “The product was developed specifically to meet the needs of young children from 12 months to 6 years," she told us.

"Malnutrition has both physical and cognitive consequences. To really address this internationally, we wanted to develop a product that was vitamin and mineral fortified and shelf stable, using our expertise in poultry.”

The product is now being distributed to Guatemalan children through both family centers and orphanages. Since the program began, Hormel Foods has distributed more than 8.5 million cans of Spammy. Some 30,000 children throughout Guatemala, mostly in and around Guatemala City, are receiving Spammy on a regular basis. It is used as a supplemental ingredient that provides a protein boost (from turkey), fortified with vitamins B12 and D, iron, zinc and other essential vitamins and minerals.

The intent is to blend the Spammy with existing food choices, rather than disrupt the existing food culture. A number of recipes that have been developed including: doblada stuffed withSpammy, Tostada spread with Spammy, Rice mixed withSpammy, Taco filled withSpammy, and more.Spammy is not available for retail purchase.

As for the Motivate aspect of the program, the company sends a number of employees, including CEO Jeff Ettinger, down to Guatemala, on a rotating basis to see the program in action and lend a hand. Employees have consistently reported that those experiences were highly motivational.

Results are encouraging. School absenteeism due to illness is down among children, even in the rainy season, when it is generally highest. Cognitive improvements, as determined by the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (translated and validated in Spanish), were observed.

While some details, like statistical results and nutritional analysis of the product, are being withheld at this time, the company plans to publish the full results of the study in the near future. While it’s not clear that the Guatemalan villagers are developing new protein or vitamin sources to improve the nutritional composition of their diet, Hormel plans to keep distributing Spammy to this group indefinitely.

This idea of targeted nutrition seems to have great potential, at least when applied to those in need. It does raise the question of whether it can be applied as successfully to the rest of us. Will targeted nutrition someday become the norm? If we could have a diet prescribed for us that would bring us optimal health, would we follow it? Or, having the choices and the opportunities that we have, would we succumb to temptation?

Image credit: Hormel Foods

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

 

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