Success Story

Agricultural Research Leads to Innovation to Fight World Hunger and Aid Emergency Relief

ARS worldhunger

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers have developed an innovative food product to assist in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Dr. Charles Onwulata, Lead Scientist working at ARS; Dean Jensen, Operations Chief working at the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS); and Dr. Talari Jude, Food Technologist and FAS Manager of Domestic Programs have collaborated to deliver a novel emergency aid product for needy populations all over the world.

The FAS and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have consulted with Dr. Onwulata for over 15 years on resolving some of the problems associated with uncooked corn soy blend (CSB).

Over the last 50 years, the Foodfor-Peace program, through Title II of Public Law 480, has distributed foods to people overseas at risk of hunger and malnutrition, providing nutritionally balanced meals in times of emergency.

The USDA FAS administers the Food-for-Peace program, buying U.S.-grown commodity products, which are in turn handed over to the USAID, which distributes the foods through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The meals are supplied as uncooked fortified cornor wheat-soy blends, with oil, vitamins and minerals.

These uncooked CSB meals have had many problems ranging from off-flavors (products going stale due to rancid fats); segregation of particles, which intensifies malnutrition (vitamins and mineral settling to the bottom of the bag); and off colors (as vitamins and iron react with starch, protein, and fat under high temperatures in tropical countries), just to name a few. To combat these issues, the team created an instant corn soy blend (ICSB), a CSB powder that makes porridge without cooking.

Not intended as a replacement for regular CSB, ICSB is being offered as a performance based, “value-added,” processed grain product alternative of choice that utilizes the exact same ingredients, formulations, vitamins and minerals utilized in the current CSB, with the major difference between the two formulations being that ICSB does not require cooking.

In summary, the ICSB product is balanced in nutrition, provides food to people in difficult situations, eliminates the problems faced by FAS with food quality issues, and helps to protect the environment.

Also, ARS and FAS are working jointly with a minority company that provides work for the disabled to manufacture ICSB in Baltimore, Maryland.

The ICSB process and product have been demonstrated to multiple U.S. aid agencies and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. The FAS issued formulation specifications bids in 2010 under the $2 billion/year Public Law 480 program using this process to request a product that is fully cooked and ready to eat.