PowerFlour Was Idea of Researcher Noel Vietmeyer
Dr. Noel Vietmeyer was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1940. He received his B.Sc. degree from the University of Otago, Dunedin in 1963 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966, where he remained a lecturer in Chemistry. In 1969 he received a NIH Fellowship at Stanford University and began his career as a researcher of scientific merit, with over 150 peer reviewed and popular publications to his credit.
Dr. Vietmeyer joined the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. in 1970. For the next 25 years he oversaw more than 40 Academy reports that stimulated interest and economic growth in needy areas of the world. These studies had a great impact on agriculture and food production. For these efforts he was awarded the Distinguished Service award for fostering agricultural advances in the developing world.
For many years Noel had followed the alarming UNICEF data on mortality of children in the world, where up to 14 million died each year of malnutrition. Most of the children died between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. If they received wholesome liquid nourishment such as breast feeding, they often survived. But as they were weaned, their health would start to fail, often leading to death. The poor families did not have substitute nutritious food such as animal milk.
Almost unversally among the poor in the tropics, a cooked porridge is the daily staple. Mothers have the challenge of getting the weaning children to learn to eat the pasty gruels. They must dilute the gruel so that often the child's stomach holds more water than food. The resulting "low nutritional density" leads to malnutrition and problems from contaminated water.
In his studies, Noel learned that health workers in Asia and Africa were successful in adding sprouted grains to the porridges, which turned them into liquids that weanlings could easily drink. The sprouted grains contained enzymes that convert thickened starches into thin sugars, releasing the water absorbed in cooking, and allowing the digestion of the food. Noel thought that he could substitute a commercial malt of extra enzyme strength to do this more effectively. The challenge remained to produce home grown sprouts safely, avoiding microbial contamination.
Noel learned that tons of food-grade malted barley are used annually in breakfast cereals, pizza crusts, malted milk and candy. He reasoned that, as in the U.S. food industry, the power of malted flour could be used to successfully break down starch in third world countries. His tests of rice, corn, oats, wheat, barley, cassava, yams, millet, and many other starches showed that all were transformed by "PowerFlour" into a sweet tasting, easy to consume, uncontaminated gruel. Subsequent tests have shown that 1/4 teaspoon of the malted barley per cup of porridge results in an untainted, sweet tasting, easy to swallow mixture that allows the children to convert up to 60% more food energy than when eaten as a pure starch. Tests in Haiti and Ghana have proved this method to be a practical way of improving the diet of weaned children.
Since 1994, Rotarians in District 6270 of Wisconsin have been raising funds to enable the testing, training and distribution of over 2000 shipments of PowerFlour to 46 different countries in the developing world. The PowerFlour has been provided at no cost by Briess Industries Inc. of Chilton, Wisconsin. The PowerFlour Action Network estimates that enough material has been distributed to liquefy 50,000,000 meals. Information that a solution to a weaning crisis, or weakening by famine or disease exists, is spreading rapidly. All of this made possible by an idea advanced by Noel Vietmeyer, a resourceful scientist, who has distinguished himself in the benefit of malnourished children eveywhere.