PITTSBURGH - The H. J. Heinz Company Foundation announced today that it will sponsor a nutrition mapping project conducted by the World Food Program (WFP) in Bangladesh, which will result in a comprehensive strategy for addressing that country's nutritional deficiencies in an efficient and sustainable manner.
The H. J. Heinz Company Foundation is supporting the project in the first year with a grant of $350,000, as well as in-kind technical assistance.
Although significant progress has been made in recent years, undernutrition remains one of the most chronic and pressing public health issues in Bangladesh. Young children and women are particularly at-risk, as nearly 40 percent of both groups are underweight, and almost half of children under five suffer from stunted growth.
According to multiple data sources, most Bangladeshis are also deficient in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, vitamin A and zinc, resulting in cognitive impairment, anemia and blindness, among other conditions.
"In Bangladesh, Heinz is helping WFP identify the most vulnerable populations and formulate strategies to improve their access to food and their nutritional intake. The goal is to create a model for helping to build a healthier, more productive and self-reliant society from the ground up," said Tammy Aupperle, Director of the H. J. Heinz Company Foundation.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian organization, fighting hunger worldwide both through emergency response and long-term projects which improve people's lives.
This year, WFP was aiming to feed 5 million hungry people in Bangladesh, who have been seriously affected by high food prices and the downturn in the global economy, including many who were affected by last year's Cyclone Sidr. Due to major funding shortfalls, however, WFP can now only reach 1.4 million, or around one quarter of the original caseload. In Bangladesh, WFP distributes wheat flour, biscuits and blended food, all fortified with essential micronutrients. It also distributes micronutrient powders, which can be added to food, to targeted groups.
"The World Food Program is thrilled to be partnering with the H. J. Heinz Company Foundation on a unique project to comprehensively map the nutritional status and needs of Bangladesh, and then develop with other key stakeholders a sustainable strategy for eradicating hunger and micronutrient malnutrition in this nation," said John Aylieff, WFP Bangladesh Representative.
The H. J. Heinz Company Foundation is dedicated to helping reduce global malnutrition through its signature program, the Heinz Micronutrient Campaign (HMC).
Through its sponsorships, the HMC has pioneered the development of micronutrient powders that can be added to staple foods in the developing world to combat anemia and other disorders related to micronutrient malnutrition.
"As one of the world's leading producers of nutritious foods for infants and children, Heinz is dedicated to reaching those people who cannot access or afford our products with a low-cost solution to the serious global health challenge of micronutrient deficiency," said William R. Johnson, Heinz Chairman, President and CEO.
To date, the HMC has reached approximately 3 million children with single-serve micronutrient sachets containing a culturally appropriate mix of vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin A, folic acid, zinc and other essential nutrients tailored to the needs of a specific population.
A regimen of 60 sachets administered over two months can meet the micronutrient needs of a child over the course of a year for a cost of about $1.50.
The HMC is currently sponsoring with the Chinese Ministry of Health a pilot program in China's northern and western provinces aimed at reaching 500,000 children. Other projects are under development in Tanzania, India, the Philippines and Cambodia.
About the Nutrition Mapping Project for Bangladesh
For every project WFP undertakes it must first establish what type and quantity of food is needed to address the problem at hand, considering the local population's cooking and eating habits.
WFP is working with corporate partners, universities, UN agencies and NGOs to develop and assess the effectiveness of innovative products, such as micronutrient powders, in preventing and treating malnutrition.
With this data in hand, a comprehensive strategy can then be devised to determine what nutritional support tools to utilize, with a focus on optimizing use of local ingredients and delivery mechanisms.
The project will produce a summary of what is known about the nutritional status and needs of different target groups based on age, sex, disease prevalence (i.e. malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS), urban vs. rural areas, and regional differences related to climate and local food production.
An assessment will also be conducted of existing programs, policies and structures that target nutrition and food security. This assessment will identify the main stakeholders for nutrition in government and the private sector.
Once this is complete a proposed country nutrition strategy will be created with a timeline for implementing short, medium and long-range goals. The strategy document will recommend the most suitable stakeholders from both the public, academic, NGO and private sectors for carrying out the strategy's different elements.
About the World Food Programme
The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency, fighting hunger worldwide. In 2009, WFP aims to feed 108 million people in 74 countries. Some 10,200 people work for the organization, most of them in remote areas, directly serving the hungry poor. For more information, please visit