Saturday, September 25, 2010

Building brains with better bread

Bread made with flour from the nutritious cowpea (black-Eyed Peas), is coming to the rescue of school children, increasingly at risk of protein deficiency, under a feeding project being piloted in Dakar, Senegal.

Cowpea, commonly known as niebe in Senegal, is one of the ingredients in the fortified bread being produced by Senegal’s Institute of Food Technology (ITA) to help improve nutrition in school children. The programme will be piloted in three schools in Senegal’s Guela Tapec District during the upcoming school term.

The fortified bread is made with 85 percent wheat, 15 percent cowpea flour and peanut butter. ITA is one of the research organisations around the world promoting the much neglected cow pea in the fight against malnutrition. Cowpea is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals ideal for childhood development.

"We realised that many school children leave homes without eating and cannot have milk because it is expensive so we have fortified the bread to deal with the lack of protein," ITA Director General, Dr. Ababacar Ndoye.

Introducing fortified bread is helping provide nutrition at an affordable cost not just for school children alone as the price of wheat flour is one the rise. The ITA pilot bakery is producing 160 loaves for promotion ahead of piloting the programmes in schools.

"We will expand the feeding programme to all the schools in Dakar," Dr. Ndoye said.

Fortified bread is one of the innovations of value-addition of the nutritious cow pea which after many years of neglect is enjoying new interest from scientists. Research on enhancing the profile of cowpea as a viable income generating and food security crop is the focus of a four day meeting, 5th World Cowpea Research Conference in Saly, Senegal from 27 September to 1 October 2010.

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