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University collaborates on Vietnam food security project

School of Nutrition Director Cecilia Rocha leads initiative, with $1.16 million International Development Research Centre grant
December 18, 2015

Researchers from Ryerson University will collaborate on an initiative to improve nutrition and food security for Vietnamese children.

Made possible by a $1.16 million grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Global Affairs Canada, through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), the project will implement proven methods of food production in less-prosperous regions to improve children’s health.

Researchers from Ryerson and Vietnam’s National Institute of Nutrition will work to increase local production and distribution of complementary and therapeutic foods for children that are high in nutrients and energy dense, such as micronutrient-enriched pastes, bars, instant flours, and pablum. “The grant is to set up small-scale processing plants in three of the poorest regions in northern Vietnam,” said Cecilia Rocha, director of the School of Nutrition in the Faculty of Community Services and lead Ryerson researcher on the project, directly benefiting an estimated 15,000 of the country’s most malnourished children. Malnutrition affects an estimated 780,000 children in Vietnam annually.

Crops will be purchased directly from female farmers in rural Vietnam, then processed in local, small-scale facilities into ready-to-use nutritious foods. These foods will be distributed through a supply chain that includes public health providers and nutrition counselling centres. More than 1,500 mothers annually will receive advice and counselling on child feeding practice at these nutrition centres.

“They already produce foods in their headquarters in Hanoi, but the project is to expand that into the low-income provinces in northern Vietnam,” said Rocha. “The grant will be used to train the people that will be producing the food; to train the farmers to supply ingredients; and to oversee the distribution of those foods to the local communities.”

The Vietnam Women's Union will liaise with female farmers, who will receive training through the project on agricultural practices, post-harvest crop handling, food safety, and the formation of producers' associations.

The team of researchers at Ryerson University will also include Fiona Yeudall, Andrea Moraes, Yvonne Yuan and Thomas Tenkate.

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