1025WorldFoodPrizewspeakerp.cfm Animal-source foods help combat poor nutrition, health
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Animal-source foods help combat poor nutrition, health

By Jennifer Carrico

The late Norman Borlaug was a true champion in fighting world hunger. The attendees and speakers at the World Food Prize symposium have hopes of helping continue this fight.

FIGHT HUNGER‚—Kevin Watkins, co-chair of the Elanco Hunger Team, discussed the role of livestock in reducing food insecurity in developing countries, during the Iowa Hunger Summit held in conjunction with the World Food Prize conference in Des Moines recently. (Journal photo by Jennifer Carrico.)

Dr. Terry Wollen, veterinarian and interim vice president of advocacy for Heifer International, and Kevin Watkins , Ph.D. and co-chair of the Elanco Hunger Team and Hunger Board, discussed the role of livestock in reducing food insecurity during a presentation to the more than 500 attendees at the fourth annual Iowa Hunger Summit, which was held in conjunction with the World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa on Oct. 12.

"To help eliminate undernourished people around the world we must double food production by 2050," said Watkins. "This can be done by improving efficiency and technology."

Evaluating how foods and food systems affect human nutrition, people's health, their economic status and the environment is a critical part of taking on the challenge of doubling food production.

"The good news is both research and real-world experience show that animal-source foods deliver on all four of these dimensions," he said.

Breaking the increase down makes it sound more attainable with an increase of food production by 20 percent every 10 years.

"We realize that animal-source food is driven mostly by income--more income, more of that income spent on an animal-based diet," Watkins continued.

A large number of people in Asia (60 percent of the population) are those who are considered undernourished, followed by Africa (30 percent of the population). The people in these areas have extreme deficiencies in protein, calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin A, vitamin B-12 and iron--all of which are plentiful in animal-source foods.

To understand the nutritional importance adding livestock-based foods to a diet, Heifer International analyzed the scenario of a typical 40-year-old man living in Zambia, in southern Africa. Currently, this moderately active 165-pound man would eat a basic diet of cereals along with small amounts of fruits, vegetables and meat. Unfortunately, this diet delivers less than half of the recommended amounts of calcium, vitamin B-12 and vitamin A, and less energy and protein than he needs.

By adding 18 ounces of milk, 2 ounces of beef and 1 ounce of chicken to this man's basic daily diet, he surpasses the recommended amounts of energy, protein, lysine, and vitamins A, B-2 and B-12, and increases his calcium levels to 75 percent of the recommended amount.

Watkins said the slight increase in livestock-based foods in the diet, undernourished people will be able to better combat poor health and disease, which lead to impaired development, poor metabolism and compromised immune systems.

"Through our work at Heifer International, we've found that providing living gifts of livestock along with training in sound agricultural practices can break this cycle of hunger and poor health," said Wollen. "Bringing these inputs to developing countries has proven to be an excellent investment that truly helps communities improve their nutrition and health status."

Heifer International works with communities and people in underdeveloped countries to help them eat better and take better care of the environment.

"We teach people to put their animals in smaller pens or paddocks so they can gain faster and be protected from predators, disease and theft. We teach them how to prevent further environmental damage and to compost the manure to use for fertilizer and improving soil nutrients," he added.

Empowering and educating people in Asian and African countries about how to plant the crops that are important for the environment and trees to replenish streams and springs and provide cleaner water for both people and animals.

"We continue to try to make huge improvements in management for these people to help them feed themselves," said Wollen

Livestock and animal source foods can help improve the diet, health and economic status of the chronically undernourished. The strategies of Heifer International and the Elanco Hunger Team are to help provide food diversification in order to improve communities.

For more information go to www.heifer.org/elanco.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by e-mail at jcarrico@hpj.com.

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