Saturday, February 25, 2012


Big industrial groups dominating the food processing sector are invariably labeled as inimical to the interests of the consumers and the bitterness between the two is so severe that recently there was even a suggestion to bracket food industry with tobacco industry. Possibly such an attitude is gaining ground because of the presumed association of most products churned out by this industry with obesity and many health disorders common in wealthy countries where processed foods constitute more than 80% in every day diet. The so called "junk foods" with empty calories and practically no useful nutrients are becoming staple foods of many consumers because of the low price and massive promotion by their manufacturers. Against this background it is refreshing to hear about the positive role being played by a few food giants in helping to tackle the poverty and malnutrition problems in the African continent. Here is the interesting story coming out of the US with support from the government.

"For General Mills, a key way for us to have an impact [on global poverty] is by sharing our food technology expertise," said Powell. "I am honored to accept the Global Citizenship Award on behalf of General Mills, and specifically, the more than 300 volunteers who have stepped up to make this effort a reality. Through their work, and the meaningful support of our partners, we are making a measurable difference." Powell went on to highlight the passion of several employee volunteers and shared excitement about his upcoming trip to Africa to meet with food processors and small-holder farmers involved with PFS. Also in attendance at the event were several Minnesota dignitaries, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Erik Paulsen, Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Betty McCollum. Powell thanked each of them for their engagement in fighting hunger and addressing human rights issues in Minnesota and around the world. PFS is curren"tly working with 30 food processors on 77 projects in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi. As these food processors grow, they are able to hire more workers and buy more raw materials from small-holder farmers. With more income, the farmers can pay school fees, access better medical care and start businesses. During his remarks, Powell thanked Cargill, DSM and TechnoServe. All work collectively with USAID and General Mills to fight hunger in Africa through PFS. Cargill and DSM joined PFS in 2011 and are critical partners that have helped expand the nonprofit's reach and depth of technical expertise. TechnoServe, a U.S. based nonprofit, helps facilitate and manage PFS projects locally in Africa".

USAID, one of the largest public supported food assistance programs in the world, has done yeoman service to bolster up the hunger fighting efforts of the developed countries and has already poured billions of dollars to make its presence felt in many poor countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Though it has been criticized for its bias in favor of American interests while carrying out these programs, the fact still remains that it has helped saving thousands of human lives through significant financial and other inputs from that country which is definitely a sacrifice measured by any yardstick. Having wealth is one thing but having the "spirit of giving" is another thing and the US deserves some appreciation from the world community for this gesture. What is surprising is the involvement of the private sector in this program under the PFS flag and financial and technical contributions from much maligned companies like Cargill, DSM, General Mills and many food processors in the US in executing several projects in Africa may give them an image make-over among consumers.    


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