Reaching Last-Mile Communities in South Africa with Fortified Food

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In South Africa during the current COVID-19 pandemic, massive food security issues have arisen in addition to the daily challenges of access to water and harsh living conditions. While under a nationwide lockdown, food distribution is critical to impoverished South African communities.

To help change the situation of many families living in South Africa, Sight and Life has provided Level Up, a fortified instant cereal full of nutritional benefits, through our longstanding partner Sizanani Mzanzi, supplier of the instant cereal. In partnership with organizations like Bambanani and Savanna Lodge, we have helped immensely in securing a meal a day for the most vulnerable members of the rural communities. These communities consist of young children and old age individuals who struggle with various health issues like HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension, and malnutrition. “The support and generous funding from Sight and Life allows this process to occur and provide nutritious meals to families for four to eight weeks,” states Ed Rakhorst, project manager for Bambanani.

Impact of nutrition

Typically, fortified cereals are offered in school to underprivileged and malnourished children ensuring they are consuming a healthy meal that contains all the essential vitamins and minerals required in their daily diet. Due to the lockdown putting a hold on children attending school this daily meal has not reached those who need it most.

Level Up cereal is endorsed by the South African Heart and Stroke Foundation and provides 13 vitamins and 4 minerals while also being high in fiber, energy and protein creating a nutritious meal.

Bambanani

In late April 2020, Sight and Life teamed up with long time partner Bambanani, a humanitarian organization based in Phalaborwa, Limpopo, South Africa, to deliver fortified food to last-mile communities, especially those children affected by school closings.

Bambanani focuses on the care, schooling, and nutrition needs of children from 0-6 years of age, including some orphaned and disabled children. Sight and Life donated Level Up cereal for children and their families to be distributed through the Bambanani network of schools.
“Most of these children are unable to receive adequate daily nutritional requirements due to the following socio-economic factors such as unemployment and overpopulated communal living,” explains Rakhorst.

At the Reneilwe School in Namakgale, there are many touching scenarios as to why these children and their families are in need. From unemployed or living on social grants to children with health concerns each story is important. For example, Blessing receives Level UP because he does not eat well, and his health is not good. Adding to this already difficult situation, his parents are unemployed and have no income or social grants for their family of six. Or there is Happy who lives in a household consisting of four uncles (one consumes alcohol), two aunts, and a total of five children all living together below the poverty line and receiving Level Up. These are just two of the many circumstances in which Bambanani can touch and change the lives of those in need.

Through Bambanani, the Level Up product is also fed to children that are diagnosed with HIV to get back on their feet, full of energy, and live their lives like normal children. These children will use the Level Up product seven days a week to maintain a healthy diet full of the needed vitamins and minerals.

Savanna Lodge

Located in Mpumalanga, South Africa, Savanna Lodge is a private game farm and dedicated to helping the local villages where many of their staff live. They have been delivering Level Up cereal, donated by Sight and Life, at least once a day to vulnerable orphans and children and elderly community members providing an extra boost of vitamins and minerals needed during this time.

“We have been able to distribute a box of cereal to every child at the center (Tiyimiseleni Project) and will continue to do so for as long as the lockdown continues. Thereafter, the cereal will be used at the center itself. It has been distributed to Hlayisekani Nursing Home, and stock is being kept for Mketsi Primary School,” explains Jennifer Harman, project manager for Savanna Lodge.

Tiyimiseleni Project is a community care center run as a social responsibility project by Savanna Lodge. It supports about 250 vulnerable children and HIV/AIDS orphans, giving them a safe place to go to where they get a nutritious meal, have an adult to talk to, can do their homework, and just be children for a while.

Mketse Primary School has approximately 650 students and is situated in an area where it is estimated that around 25% of the children come from child-headed households. The vision of the passionate Headmaster and dedicated staff is to provide knowledge and skills that will enable students to carry out a productive role in society and so give back to their community. Sight and Life has a longstanding relationship with the school and contribute towards this vision through its support of the school lunch program. In so doing, we are supporting keeping these children’s young bodies healthy, active, and ready to learn.

In the communities around Savanna Lodge, the situations are less than ideal. One such example is Maria’s family consisting of seven family members and both parents have passed away. She is 20 years old and unemployed and the siblings (ages 3 to 16) are in schools and they attend Tiyimiseleni home-based are for regular meals and medical assistance. Savanna built a house for Maria and her siblings to live in as they do not have identification documents making them unable to apply for state social grants. Currently, the schools and the home-based care centers are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the children rely on the school feeding scheme from Tiyimiseleni for their daily meal. The donation of Level Up cereal made by Sight and Life provides them with at least one regular meal a day for many weeks.

The Nyambi family of three struggles as the mother is unemployed and undergoing HIV treatment and raising two children (8 and 14 years old). Due to the two children not having identification documents they are unable to claim state social grants to help support the family. Therefore, they have no income, or extended family members to assist them. The children are reliant on school feeding programs and meals from Tiyimiseleni home-based care thus making the Sight and Life contribution extremely important.

“This is just the beginning, there is more to be done during challenging times like this pandemic and in the long-term to take on malnutrition. We are proud to support and work with partners and organizations such as Bambanani and Savanna Lodge, who care for people and their futures,” remarks Klaus Kraemer, Managing Director for Sight and Life.

Introducing Iron

An Important Role in the Body

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Iron, essential mineral, nourish notes, FeFeeling tired? No energy? Maybe you are not getting enough iron in your diet! Iron is essential for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells; haemoglobin binds oxygen and transports it around the body. Iron also serves as a cofactor to enzymes in oxidation/reduction reactions (i.e., accepts or donates electrons). These reactions are vital to cells’ energy metabolism. Iron requirements fluctuate throughout the life course. Iron needs increase during menstruation, pregnancy, and periods of rapid growth such as early childhood and adolescence.

The Primary Sources of Iron

Iron can be found in red meats, fish, poultry, shellfish, eggs, legumes, grains, and dried fruits.

Iron, nourish notes, primary sources, meat, mineral

Bioavailability of Iron

Iron is carefully regulated by the body and absorption rates vary by the size of a person’s iron stores. The more iron-deficient a person is, the better the absorption rates. Conversely, in healthy individuals iron absorption shuts down when iron stores have been maximized. Many factors affect the absorption of iron. Heme iron from animal-source foods is absorbed, on average, twice as well as inorganic iron (from plant sources). The absorption rates for inorganic iron are also influenced by the meal composition and the solubility of the iron form.

Factors that enhance absorption of inorganic iron are vitamin C and animal protein. Factors that inhibit inorganic iron absorption include phytates (found in grains), polyphenols (found in teas and red wine), vegetable protein, and calcium (which also affects the absorption of heme iron). Food processing techniques to reduce the phytate content of plant-based foods, such as thermal processing, milling, soaking, fermentation, and germination, improve the bioavailability of inorganic iron from these foods.

Risks Related to Inadequate Intake of Iron

A lack of dietary iron depletes iron stores in the liver, spleen and bone marrow. Severe depletion or exhaustion of iron stores can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Certain life-stages require greater iron intake and if these are not met, the risk for iron deficiency is increased. For example, pregnancy demands additional iron to support the added blood volume, growth of the fetus and blood loss during childbirth. Infants and young children need extra iron to support their rapid growth and brain development. Because breast milk is low in iron, infants exclusively fed breastmilk may also be at risk for iron deficiency. Similarly, the rapid growth of adolescence also demands extra iron.

Due to iron’s role in energy metabolism, depletion of body iron stores may result in reductions of the available energy in the cell. The physical signs of iron deficiency include fatigue, weakness, headaches, apathy, susceptibility to infections, and poor resistance to cold temperatures.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here.

Incorporate iron into your next evening meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Fillet Steak with Peppercorn Sauce*

Steak, Jamie Oliver, recipe, nourish notes

Ingredients 

175 g fillet steak , ideally 3-4cm thick
olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Peppercorn Sauce (enough sauce for 2 steaks)
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
40 ml brandy
125 ml dry white wine
100 ml concentrated organic beef stock
30 ml double cream
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

Method

Place a medium frying pan over a high heat to warm-up. Season the steak with sea salt and drizzle with a little oil, then rub all over. Place the steak into the hot pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare, searing it on its edges for an even crust. If you prefer your steak medium (5 to 6 minutes) or well done (8 to 10 minutes), adjust the cooking time to your liking. Remove the steak to a plate, reserving the pan of juices. Top the steak with the butter, cover with tin foil, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, then sieve and remove the powder, leaving the chunker bits to cook with. Add the chunky white peppercorns to the pan of meat juices and cook over a low heat for 30 seconds. Pour in the brandy to deglaze the pan, then carefully tilt the pan to catch the flame (or light with a match) and let it flambé for 30 seconds – stand back! When the flames subside, add the wine, turn the heat up to high and reduce by half, then add the beef stock and continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes, or until thick and delicious. Turn off the heat, stir in the cream, add the butter and any resting juices, and stir to combine. Serve the steak with a drizzle of peppercorn sauce.

*Adapted from Jamie Oliver recipes

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Introducing Copper

A Necessary Essential Mineral

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CopperAfter iron and zinc, copper is the most abundant dietary trace mineral. It is a component of many enzymes and is needed to produce red and white blood cells. Copper-dependent enzymes transport iron and load it into hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen through the blood.

Copper-dependent enzymes also provide a natural defense against free radicals that damage the body; manufacture collagen (required by skin and bone); inactivate histamine, which is responsible for allergic reactions; and degrade dopamine into a neurotransmitter so cells can “talk” to each other. Copper is also thought to be important for infant growth, brain development, the immune system and for strong bones. 

The Primary Sources of Copper 

Copper is often found in seafood, nuts, whole grains, seeds and legumes, as well as organ meats (offal). 

Copper Sources

Bioavailability of Copper  

Copper absorption depends on copper intake; absorption rates are approximately 50% when intakes <1 mg/day (which is approximately the recommended intake for adult males). High iron intake may lower the absorption of copper.  

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Copper  

Copper deficiency in healthy humans is very rare. However, those at risk for copper deficiency are individuals with a rare genetic disorder, Menke’s disease, and children who are malnourished, those with prolonged diarrhea, or who are fed only cow’s milk. Because copper is needed to transport iron, clinical signs of copper deficiency include anemia. Other clinical signs are osteoporosis and other abnormalities of bone development, loss of pigmentation, neurological symptoms, and impaired growth. Excessive intakes of copper from foods are unlikely. 

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate copper into your next breakfast meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Crunchy Nutty Granola* 

Ingredients

125g butter Crunchy Nutty Granola
150ml honey 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
500g oat flakes 
100g flaked almonds 
100g chopped cashew nuts 
100g desiccated coconut 
100g pumpkin seeds 
100g sunflower seeds 
200-300g mixed dried fruit, such as chopped pitted dates, figs, apricots, raisins, sultanas 
 
Method 
Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas 3. Place the butter, honey and vanilla in a small pan, and put over a gentle heat to melt together. Next, mix the remaining ingredients, except the dried fruit, in a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter mixture and mix well. Spread out in a large roasting tray and bake for 25 minutes, or until the nuts and grains are a pale golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes so it browns evenly. Then remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool, stirring the mixture in the tray occasionally. (If you transfer it to a bowl while it’s still warm, it will go soggy.) When it has cooled down, add the dried fruit, stir, and put into an airtight container. Store at room temperature for up to a month.  

*adapted from Rachel Allen Recipes 

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Introducing Vitamin C

The Healing Nutrient

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Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is often referred to as the healing vitamin. Why? Well, it has a very important role in wound healing by aiding the synthesis of collagen which is required for the normal structure and function of connective tissues such as skin, cartilage and bones.

Vitamin C has other important qualities for the human body. It is an antioxidant, potentially protecting cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Additionally, vitamin C is involved in the normal structure and function of blood vessels and neurological function and assists in the defense against infections and inflammation. Lastly, vitamin C is often recommended for people who have iron deficiency or anemia as it aids the  absorption of non-haem iron (iron from plant sources) in the gut.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin C

Fruits (especially citrus fruits), cabbage-type vegetables, green leafy vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, and liver (ox /calf).

Bioavailability of Vitamin C

Levels of vitamin C in foods depend on the growing conditions, season, stage of maturity, cooking practices, and storage time prior to consumption. Vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat and oxygen. Absorption levels depend on the amounts consumed. About 70–90% of vitamin C is absorbed. If intakes exceed 1000 mg/day, absorption levels drop to 50%.

Risks Related to Inadequate Intake of Vitamin C

Individuals who do not consume sufficient quantities of fruits and vegetables are at risk for inadequate intakes of vitamin C. Because smoking generates free radicals, individuals who smoke have elevated requirements for vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy; signs of scurvy are bleeding gums, small hemorrhages below the skin, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight, and lowered resistance to infections.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin C into your next meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Chickpea, Spinach and Tomato Curry*

Ingredients
1 onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3cm/1¼ in piece  ginger, grated
6 ripe  tomatoes
½ tbsp oil
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
pinch chilli flakes
1 tsp yeast extract
4 tbsp red lentils
6 tbsp coconut cream
1 head of  broccoli broken into small florets
400g can chickpeas, drained
100g bag baby spinach leaves
1  lemon, halved
1 tbsp toasted sesame seed
1 tbsp chopped cashew to mix with the sesame seeds

Method

Put the onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes in a food processor or blender and whizz to a purée.

Heat oil in a large pan. Add the spices, fry for a few secs and add purée and yeast extract. Bubble together for 2 mins, then add lentils and coconut cream. Cook until lentils are tender, then add the broccoli and cook for 4 mins. Stir in chickpeas and spinach, squeeze over lemon and swirl through sesame and cashew mixture. Serve with brown rice, if you like.

*Adapted from BBC Good Food.

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