WISHH launched its soy nutrition program in Honduras in 2003. The mission of the program was to demonstrate consumer acceptability and health benefits of soy protein products. The long term objective is to build new markets in the food area for US soybeans in Honduras and Central America. WISHH partners include: Office of the President of Honduras; Ministry of Health; CARE, Honduras; World Food Programme (WFP); United Nations AIDS office; National Association of People Living with AIDS (ASONAPVSIDAH); Zamarano (Pan-American Agricultural University); and local businesses interested in developing the soy foods manufacturing sector for Honduran consumers.
CARE in collaboration with WFP, ASONAPVSIDAH, and the Ministry of Health has developed a program to improve care and support services for People Living with AIDS (PLWA). WISHH has added a nutrition component to this program to demonstrate health benefits of soy protein for PLWA. Three-hundred PLWA families, receiving antiretroviral, are participating in the WISHH nutrition study. Two soy products, defatted soy flour (DSF) and textured soy protein (TSP), are being distributed to the beneficiaries for a period of one year. This is in addition to the basic food basket donated by the WFP, which consists of rice, corn meal, red beans, sugar, flour, and vegetable oil. Baseline data was collected at the beginning of the study. Data is being collected periodically during the study and final data collection will take place at the end of the project year.
CARE distributes food to approximately 7,500 families through Hogasa Mother-Child Care Program funded by the USAID. These families were perceived to have a high risk of infant and child malnutrition. CARE ration consists of corn flour, red beans, rice and some corn soy blend. WISHH is working with CARE to demonstrate the suitability of soy protein products for this program. Three hundred and thirty six families from the HOGASA beneficiaries are participating in this study. Each family is receiving DSF and TSP for a four-month period. The project is being carried out in three communities representing three municipalities, one each in the La Paz, Intibucá and Lempira departments.
About 50% of children 12 and under suffer from malnutrition in Honduras. To combat this problem, the WFP is partially funding, through food product donations, a school lunch program in Honduras, which is managed by the Office of the President. They are feeding 300,000 children through this program; the number is expected to double. WISHH, at the request of the Office of the President, had conducted a cost/benefit analysis of adding soy protein products – TSP and defatted soy flour – to fortify the current school rations. Convinced of the benefits of soy protein, the Office of the President proposed a pilot program to incorporate soy protein to children’s diet. Approximately 1,000 school children in the rural municipality of San Francisco de la Opalasca participated in the pilot. The pilot demonstrated consumer acceptance of soy protein products, and showed how to logistically incorporate a new commodity in the geographically widely dispersed school lunch program.
Zamrano has been working with WISHH on the development of soy-enhanced school snacks. They are in the process of expanding their food processing pilot plant. In the meanwhile, the National Soybean Research Laboratory (NSRL) at the University of Illinois is providing product development training to their students at its pilot plant. A student from Zamarano developed a soy-enhanced pudding during his training at NSRL. The pudding was tested with the students in Honduras and was well accepted. WISHH is now exploring feasibility of using this product for mid-day snack in schools.
Honduran First Lady Xiomara Castro presented WISHH with a certificate of appreciation for support of Honduran boys and girls through the Healthy Schools initiative. To build on this work in 2007, WISHH and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) implemented programs with the Honduran Ministry of Health so Honduran children can have healthier diets. The pilot feeding program added texturized soy protein and defatted soy flour to foods for children ages 6- to 36-months. Children from 500 families in the Santa Barbara and La Paz regions of Honduras benefited.
Honduran Health Ministry officials point out that in spite of educational efforts, childhood malnutrition rates have not improved. They want to address the lack of protein and micronutrients directly. An estimated 30 percent of the children in Honduras lack sufficient protein in their diets to reach their full mental and physical potential as they grow. WISHH Executive Director Jim Hershey met with high-ranking Honduran government officials in December 2007. The Honduran Minister of Culture and chair of the governments Social Affairs Committee and the Vice Minister of Agriculture pledged their commitment to a pilot program to support the nutrition of 500 young children with soy- and micronutrientfortified supplement. Hershey also met with Cargill business leaders in Honduras and Guatemala to enlist their support of similar nutrition-based outreach programs.
Jose Dos Santos, owner and general director of Unipan Bakeries in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, exemplifies WISHH’s work with the private sector. He has begun to incorporate two types of soy flour into his bakery products. With WISHH technical training, he learned that defatted soy flour increases water binding in dough and can help replace other expensive ingredients. He has also discovered that lecithinated soy flour can replace significant quantities of eggs in certain products, like muffins, thereby reducing the cost of production. An added benefit to the use of soy flour is the considerable increase in nutrition in the soy-fortified products! Sr. Dos Santos is so enthusiastic about these advantages, he is now distributing the soy flours to other bakers in the Tegucigalpa area.
WISHH’s 2008 activities put valuable soy nutrition in the diets of Honduran children. University of Illinois National Soybean Research Laboratory (NSRL) representatives assisted companies like ANDIFAR in developing complementary food – the transition from breast milk to family foods – for a Honduran young child feeding pilot program. WISHH and NSRL, San Rafael Clinic and Aragua Clinic, non-governmental organizations, collaborated on a research project with a soy-based complementary food. Other efforts included working with Casa Aurora, a program supported by the Catholic Church, that provides families affected by HIV with a monthly food basket. The basket included texturized soy protein (TSP) and offered nutritional training.