Malnutrition remains a significant global problem despite corporate and charitable efforts to fight it. Malnourishment results in the deaths of an estimated 2.6 million children each year – about a third of global child deaths. An estimated 221 million people in India are chronically or acutely malnourished – over 17 percent of the country’s population. Nearly half of children in India are underweight and/or are too small for their age.
Now Mars, Incorporated is partnering with the Tata Trusts, a coalition of philanthropic trusts headquartered in India, to increase efforts to combat malnutrition and improve food safety and agriculture development within the country. The collaboration will:
- Develop methods and tools to increase crop productivity, farm income, and the sustainability of select agricultural commodities;
- Increase the availability of safe, affordable, and sustainable raw materials from India; and
- Conduct joint research on nutritional guidelines that can help address anemia and other forms of malnutrition.
One focus of the work will be to reduce Aflatoxin contamination in India’s supply chain. The naturally occurring, poisonous chemical is produced by certain molds and is a critical food safety issue in India. Mars Food will be able to use its Global Food Safety Center in China to conduct research on addressing Aflatoxin contamination. It is one of several Mars research centers, including the Innovation Institute for Food and Health that the company launched in partnership with UC Davis nearly a year ago.
“Given Mars' global leadership in nutritive foods and sustainable agriculture, the Tata Trusts believes this collaboration will have lasting, meaningful benefits for Indian communities,” said Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Trusts. “We are particularly inspired by Mars Food's commitment to addressing malnutrition in India – a challenge of growing concern in this country, particularly among children.”
Mars will benefit from the Tata Trusts’ local expertise in developing and delivering solutions.
Fellow candymaker The Hershey Company has also targeted malnutrition through partnerships, although its focus has mainly been in Africa. Last year as part of its Energize Learning program, the company joined with the Ghana School Feeding Programme and Project Peanut Butter to distribute a peanut-based protein supplement called Vivi to schoolchildren. Hershey also joined Partners in Food Solutions (PFS), an international public-private partnership that connects volunteer experts from the world’s leading food companies with their counterparts in Africa to help them improve and expand their businesses, which was founded by General Mills in 2008.
Meanwhile, international non-profit organization WorldFish has focused its research efforts on tackling undernourishment in Bangladesh: A recent study found significant health benefits associated with the use of small fish in chutney and flour, especially for pregnant women and infants.