Improving Access to Nutritious Food

By Chris Mallett, Corporate Vice President R&D, Cargill

Improving Access to Nutritious Food


The poor eat poorly. In the developing world and developed nations, in rural communities and urban centers, the world’s poor are disproportionately undernourished or unhealthily overweight. The global prevalence of malnutrition is a serious threat to human health and wellbeing. Its consequences are lasting and costly, whether in the form of stunting and other risks to healthy development in the undernourished or the susceptibility to chronic disease in the overweight.

The global food system is increasingly under scrutiny for issues ranging from persistent hunger to obesity and the health and well-being of people. Yet modern agriculture has accomplished a great deal in meeting the increasing demands of our growing world. Cargill sits in a unique position between suppliers and distributors, producers and processors, growers of food and consumers of food. With this unique position comes a responsibility we have embraced – the responsibility to be actively engaged in helping ensure all the world’s people have access to sufficient amounts of safe, affordable and nutritious food to lead active lives. We work at the malnutrition challenge from both sides of the problem, combatting undernourishment and, at the same time, working on innovative ingredients to reduce sugar, salt and sodium in a wide range of foods.

To combat undernourishment, we apply our skills in logistics and supply chain management to expand access to food, advocate for open trade so that food can move easily from places of surplus to places of deficit, and work with farmers at all levels of production to increase agricultural productivity and incomes. Raising incomes is an important way to build long term sustainable improvements in accessing more nutritious foods, but we are also helping many rural agricultural communities around the world secure access to better diets. This may be through the kitchen gardens that we help farming households establish in communities in Zambia, Indonesia and India or through using our existing distribution activities to bring varieties of products to communities – for example, Cargill’s fleet of refrigerated trucks in Nicaragua delivers poultry products to 12,000 small shopkeepers so that they can offer lower priced packages of chicken to communities in remote areas and build their local businesses. To truly achieve scale in improving access to nutrition, we believe it’s critical to support local, national and global efforts. Because of Cargill’s footprint across the 67 countries we operate in, we are able to help local communities scale up their own innovations and help implement new ideas and programmes.

We also can’t achieve scale without collaboration, so we work with partners such as the World Food Programme to improve the diets of school age children and with CARE, Fare Share and Feeding America to provide access to nutritious food in communities all over the world. We can also lend our voice to raising attention to food security so we are proud to support the United Nations Zero Hunger Challenge, which calls on all stakeholders to scale up their efforts towards a hunger-free world.

We work the other side of the malnutrition challenge as well. As our customers strive to meet consumer demand for healthier foods, we develop innovative new ingredients that help them formulate products that are lower in saturated fats, salt and sugar. This work reaches all the way back to farms, where we work with growers to source low linoleic soybeans and high oleic canola – both of which help food companies reduce trans fats in their products. Further along the food chain, we develop, process and market science-based, health promoting ingredients and specialty sweeteners that help cut calories, add soluble fiber and reduce LDL cholesterol.

At Cargill, we are optimistic about the ability of the world to feed itself. Chronic hunger is in decline. Achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of halving by 2015 the number of people suffering from hunger is within reach. World Food Day is a fitting occasion to examine how the collective, collaborative efforts of governments, private sector interests and non-governmental organizations have achieved this progress – and to recommit to ending hunger and malnutrition all over the world.

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