School lunches are a key source of nutrition for children from low-income families around the world, and milk can play an important part of this nutritious package. It offers essential, high quality protein for growth, as well as calcium for bone growth, B vitamins, and vitamin A for eye health. However, getting safe milk to school lunches in developing countries can be challenging. If the milk is unsafe, children are unable to get the nutrition it offers.
Kerry is partnering with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Honduras to help address this challenge through Project Leche. By sharing expertise from a strong dairy heritage, Kerry Agribusiness is supporting local Honduran farmers in the production of safe, sustainable dairy.
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, where one in four children suffer chronic malnutrition. Recurrent natural disasters and a susceptibility to the effects of climate change contribute to food insecurity. Weather extremes such as prolonged drought and hurricanes severely affect the ability of subsistence farmers to produce enough food to feed their families.
The goal of Project Leche is to use more sustainably produced local milk to help improve the nutritional value of school meals and in a key development, safe and nutritious dairy products from the first group of farmers participating in the project are set to be re-introduced to school meals in the project area later this month. These dairy products are largely in the form of Quesillo, a locally produced fresh cheese.
To promote good practice at farm level, a peer-to-peer learning model has been established similar to that used among Kerry’s own milk suppliers in Ireland. Farm leaders have been identified and these act as demonstration farmers that will share learnings with others in the project area.
To help measure impact, Kerry’s nutrition experts have been engaged with WFP and local agencies in completing a baseline survey for schools and undertaking a nutritional assessment of school children in the project area. Training plans have been developed and initiated for producers, processors and teachers and we have started monitoring children with obesity, low weight for their age (underweight), or low height for their age (stunting).
As momentum builds, the project team continually looks to engage with others and create links with important local and regional institutions to support this work. They have shared the baseline nutrition results with health authorities, district directors, municipal directors, teachers and mothers of the region and are also engaging with the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama.
“The World Food Programme is delighted with the achievements of Project Leche to date” said Patrick McKenna Private Sector Partnerships Manager at the World Food Programme. “By combining our expertise with that of Kerry’s, we are helping to make Zero Hunger a reality for children and farmers in Honduras.”