Food isn’t just about energy. True, it ‘fuels’ us in that digestion releases the energy stored in food, but it also supplies and replenishes key ingredients for the thousands of biochemical reactions that make us work. We breakdown plant and animal proteins into amino acids and reform them into our enzymes, hormones and muscles. We use the vitamins stored in the fat we consume to, among other functions, promote the clotting of our blood so a minor cut doesn’t result in a fatal hemorrhage (Vitamin K), use the calcium we absorb to build stronger bones (Vitamin D), and to improve our ability to see at night (Vitamin A).
Iron is another essential mineral we need from our diets. Without it, the bone marrow cannot manufacture red blood cells, which supply oxygen to every one of our cells as they course through our blood vessels. A low red cell mass defines anemia and results in fatigue, lack of endurance, lethargy. The child under 5 has a particular vulnerability to lack of iron, for it is essential for normal brain development. Children in this age group who are iron-deficient end up with lower IQs. Imagine all the millions and millions of children never able to reach their full intellectual potential because of the lack of a single mineral.
Replacing zinc in a child who lacks it can help to reduce the duration of diarrheal illness, a major killer of young children in developing countries.
So, back to the paste made by TwoDegrees partner, Valid Nutrition. This high-octane, peanut-based product is a type of ready to use therapeutic food, (or RUTF to the inside crowd,) With 500 calories per pack, it supplies about 1/3 of a small child’s baseline daily caloric requirement. The packs are torn and spooned or squeezed directly into a child’s mouth. Not needing to be mixed with water is key, as clean water is not available to over 1 billion people. With a shelf life of over 1 year, it can be stored, shipped and distributed to needy children over months and still be ready to use- and nutritious. Palm oil supplies the fat. Children under 2 need a higher fat diet than do adults. Rapidly growing brains need extra fat (which is why, in the US, pediatrician advise parents to feed their toddlers whole milk instead of the lower fat options). Peanuts, (or “ground nuts” in Africa) provide protein, as does dry milk powder. Sugar provides calories and taste. Vitamins and minerals tailored to the young child’s needs, are then added to the mix. The result? A nutritious paste and an exciting new weapon in the fight against child malnutrition.
But, you may be wondering, does this stuff taste like? Peanut butter cookie batter, without the flour and eggs. Good stuff.