USDA Cochran Alumni Star in ASA/WISHH’s 2016 School Feeding and Nutrition Training
The vote is unanimous–100 percent of participants in the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) Program’s September 2016 USDA Cochran Fellowship Program reported they “Agree Strongly—The Cochran Fellowship Program increased my knowledge of school feeding and nutrition.”
Two participants who are implementing a USDA McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program stated in a thank you letter that the training stands out as one of the best they have ever attended. “We were able to walk away and feel more equipped with a new understanding and strategies in dealing with feeding and nutrition issues.”
2012 Alumni Paola Escobar, a food engineer with Guatemalan food company Alimentos S.A., traveled to the 2016 program thanks to WISHH leveraging its soybean checkoff support from the Michigan Qualified State Soybean Board. 2014 Alumni Wilna Oldewage-Theron also joined to pass on her expertise during the WISHH 2016 training held in Washington, D.C., Delaware and Virginia.
2014 Cochran Training Inspires Ten New Soy-Based Foods
Oldewage-Theron was a professor and Director of the Centre of Sustainable Livelihoods, Vaal University of Technology in South Africa when she participated in WISHH’s 2014 Cochran Fellowship training. Now a professor of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University, she remains active in South African nutrition initiatives.
Specifically, WISHH’s 2014 program encouraged Oldewage-Theron to address the lack of high-quality, nutritious soy-based food products in South Africa. She succeeded in garnering funding to develop ten food products that are slated to finish research trials in 2017.
WISHH Leverages FAS Funding for Central American School Feeding Successes
Meanwhile, Escobar says WISHH’s 2012 Cochran Fellowship gave her fresh ideas to return to her company, which produces a variety of high-protein, soy-based foods that are widely consumed throughout Guatemala and beyond. USDA Market Access Program funding has allowed WISHH to provide technical trainings for the company’s Central American employees. Through USDA’s Foreign Market Development program, WISHH has also brought Alimentos’ key staff to participate in trade teams to the United States where they learned more about U.S. soybeans and the soybean products the company is purchasing. WISHH staff and farmer leaders have visited the company to reiterate the value, quality and dependability of U.S. soy.
This year, WISHH partnered with Alimentos to host a Soy Nutrition See for Yourself trip in Guatemala. Attendees included a representative of El Salvador’s Ministry of Health, which is responsible for administering social programs in the country. She witnessed how the Guatemalan factory manufactures soy-based beverages and porridge mixes that the government purchases and distributes to Guatemalan social program participants, such as schools. The tour also included presentations on the value of soy nutrition and visits to a Guatemalan community where a soy-based meal program reduced child malnutrition from 83 percent to 35 percent.
Upon the participant’s return to El Salvador and convinced of the value of soy nutrition, the Ministry of Health placed an order for 1.35 million 450-gram bags of the U.S. soy-based beverage for use in the country’s social programs. The product contains 20 percent U.S. soy flour and will be distributed to children, ages six months to 24 months, who are at high risk for malnutrition. This purchase will supply the program for one year. The Government of El Salvador also purchases 950 metric tons of a different soy-based product from this company and the World Food Program distributes 350 metric tons of an additional soy-based product.
Escobar was able to share these experiences and more with the 2016 Cochran Trainees from Nicaragua and South Africa
2016 Trainees Return Home with Action Plans and More for Improved School Feeding
Both Escobar and Oldewage-Theron joined WISHH’s team in working with the 2016 Cochran Fellows, three of whom implement USDA McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program projects in Nicaragua. Another participant is a deputy manager in the Limpopo South African department of agriculture.
WISHH’s 2016 training increased nutrition and school feeding knowledge. It included a farm visit where American Soybean Association President Richard Wilkins discussed U.S. agricultural sustainability. National farm-to-school leader/soybean grower David Marvel and his network of school nutrition contacts, including the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, were a highlight.
Throughout the training, the WISHH team focused on the goal for each participant to develop an action plan for improved school feeding. All participants completed their action plans, reporting it will enable them to benefit their colleagues and communities. When asked to identify a specific example of follow up plans, a participant stated he will work to train parents and teachers so they have more information regarding the nutrition facts on the products offered through the USDA McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.
The post-evaluation surveys show the Fellowship whetted the participants’ appetite for school feeding information. WISHH is helping fill this hunger for knowledge. By establishing a community of practice group, WISHH and the participants will continue to share results, reports, and recipes through the internet and social media.