this project, we are bringing to world attention a technique that
is potentially effective for feeding those children at highest risk:
the ones born to the poorest of the poor, the ones whose mothers
are themselves badly malnourished, and the weanling orphans with
no mothers at all. The new technique is notably promising for use
in remote locations, in times of need, and in the aftermath of natural
or man-made disasters. It can thus reach the populations where mortality
from malnutrition is greatest. It complements breast feeding and
makes the weaning process more successful for the most threatened
individuals in locations where milk and baby formula are unavailable.
The prime "tool" in this new technique is food-grade malted barley.
This white powder is nothing more than ground-up sprouted barley
grains. It is a flavoring ingredient in malted milk, corn flakes,
Grape Nuts, Wonder bread, English muffins, pizza crusts, Milky Way
bars and many more foods. The United States produces thousands of
tons of it annually, but little is now used to help starving babies
Nonetheless, food-grade malted barley flour could save lives. It
is rich in the enzymes that digest starch. Indeed, it digests starch
so well that it turns any hot boiled staple (raw grain) into a liquid.
We call it PowerFlour because it causes such a spectacular
The approach we envision involves no change in diet, no complex
routines to learn, and barely any change in life-style. PowerFlour
would be employed solely to turn a portion of the family food staple
into a form babies can be nourished with. Children have difficulty
swallowing corn mush, rice, potato, sorghum, and dozens of other
"solids." PowerFlour converts these boiled staples into liquids
to be drunk. In other words, solids that infants struggle to ingest
become suddenly easy to handle with a baby's natural born instincts.
Using PowerFlour is simple. The mother merely adds the powder to
the hot pablum, porridge, mash, mush or gruel that constitute the
basic diet of the poorest of the poor families. The conversion occurs
almost instantaneously. The quantity used is very small: a teaspoon
of PowerFlour easily liquefies a gallon of corn porridge, mashed
potatoes, or other boiled staple. The cost is negligible; the price
of a teaspoon of PowerFlour, for instance, is not even 1/10 of a
cent. Two pinches of PowerFlour in a cup of hot gruel does the trick.
Taste is no limitation. PowerFlour gives malted milkshakes their
flavor. Moreover, its enzymes release sugars from the starch, so
the liquefied product becomes doubly palatable (better tasting).
Despite some studies of weaning foods made with starch-digesting
enzymes, nothing like this instant, barley-based, food-liquefying
catalyst has been employed before.
In everyday practice in the Third World village, the mother
merely scoops a portion from the family cooking pot, stirs in a little PowerFlour,
and passes the resulting fluid to her weanling child. No more fighting
to get pablum down; no more diluting pasty foods with potentially
contaminated water; no more digestive difficulties from a wad of
starch balled up in a tiny, tender stomach. The baby feeds itself
by sucking a sweetish liquid from a cup.
PowerFlour samples could be supplied by the local health service,
rural clinics, relief agencies, or other organizations. The raw
ingredient could be provided in bulk or in pre-packaged form by
the United States, Denmark, The Netherlands, South Africa, Japan,
or other countries that make food-grade malted barley. The cost
would be about 1 cent per child. One cent buys enough PowerFlour
to catalyze the liquefaction of 100 cup-sized servings of the local
staple. Ingesting that much food will ensure an infant a full stomach
at least once a day. That in turn will remove the threat from inadequate
food intake during the early weaning period.
The process is safe. The food has been boiled and thereby rendered
free of infection. More than 99 percent of it is the local staple,
eaten since time immemorial. The added PowerFlour (less than 1 percent)
is itself wholesome. The only real changes are the liquid consistency
and the disappearance of starch. In most cases the latter will cause
no problem, but the released sugars may prolong any diarrhea outbreak.
The PowerFlour Action Network was established to get this process
employed with dispatch. Through the Network, information is communicated
to audiences ranging from national leaders to field workers. Trial
PowerFlour samples are provided to interested parties. Research
results and field responses are being compiled for dissemination.
The Network's written documentation include a technical overview,
a field-guide in different languages, and a newsletter published
several times a year. Electronic dissemination is via this website
and an e-mail service to answer questions and take orders for PowerFlour.
A videotape demonstrating product usage is also in the works.
Although the ultimate outcome of this project can only be speculated
on, we are confident that the results will be profound. Already,
a program directed by former president Jimmy Carter and Nobel Prizewinner
Norman Borlaug has found that malnourished children in Ghana's villages
ingest three times more food using the PowerFlour process. Observers
consider that the method makes the difference between life and death
for those children. Similar results are reported from Haiti and
other spots where fatal malnutrition is prevalent.
PowerFlour International is established as an IRS-approved
nonprofit organization under code 501(3)(c). Its activities will
help garner the worldwide attention this innovation deserves. In
this way, PowerFlour International might well accomplish in
a few short years, and at modest cost, a result that multinational,
multi-million dollar organizations could take pride in accomplishing
over decades. At present, PowerFlour is hardly known to such organizations.
By stimulating them and also others outside the mainstream we can
swing open a new window of opportunity for reducing the death rate
among the world's littlest and least deserving sufferers.