January 11, 2016 |

Smart Solution #5: fortified rice

Kids get a big boost with “vitamin rice” and US food aid programs.
Four children sit in a doorway eating from metal containers.
Novel and effective solutions like fortified rice improve the health of women, children, and communities around the world where they’re needed most. Photo: PATH/Minzayar.

In this series we’re profiling PATH solutions and technologies that benefitted from donors like you. Today we’re featuring fortified rice.

 What is fortified rice?

Just like iodized salt, fortified rice safely and seamlessly adds crucial nutrients to the world’s most popular staple food. It’s a great vehicle to get struggling children the vitamins and minerals they need on a regular basis. It looks, cooks, and tastes like ordinary rice, but is actually rice flour squeezed through a rice-shaped mold, enriched with micronutrients. Small amounts are blended into ordinary rice. The micronutrients encapsulated in each grain can withstand heat and humidity and won’t break down when cooked. Most importantly, the versatile grains can incorporate a range of vitamins and minerals to meet the needs of children in different regions.

PATH has played a catalytic role in improving the nutritional value of rice through our Ultra Rice® fortification technology and our work to expand access to fortified rice. We’ve also supported local economies through local production.

Fortified rice on a factory conveyer belt.
A closeup of fortified rice produced in a Myanmar plant. Photo: PATH/Minzayar.

What is its impact?

Studies have shown that fortified rice can significantly reduce iron deficiency and improve vitamin A status in children. Children even scored higher on cognitive tests after just six months of eating the nutrient-packed grains in their school lunches.

The results of these studies (many made possible by PATH donors) helped us achieve a long-sought goal with worldwide impact: the United States government has approved the inclusion of fortified rice in US food aid programs. The first shipment is destined for Cambodia, where almost half a million children will receive critical vitamins and minerals in their school meals.

Over the coming years, millions of malnourished children in Africa, Asia, and Latin America will get the micronutrients their bodies need to learn and grow through fortified rice.

What role did private donors play?

Getting fortified rice added to US food aid programs is the culmination of a long and remarkable journey. But it wouldn’t have happened without the tremendous support of our donors.

At one point, the project was on the brink of closing down. Thanks to funding from people like you, it was given a second chance. Since then, we’ve introduced sustainable ways to make and distribute fortified rice in Brazil (where it’s called vitamin rice), India, Myanmar, and other countries around the world.

How can you support projects like this at PATH?

When you donate to PATH, much needed funds go toward furthering novel and effective solutions like fortified rice. These innovations improve the health of women, children, and communities around the world where they’re needed most.

Ultra Rice is a registered US trademark of Bon Dente International, Inc.

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