Working in partnership to deliver a fortified Super Porridge for Kenyan school children

The challenge/background – malnutrition and low school attendance in ASAL region

In Kenya, 36% of the population lives in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) region which covers 80% of the country’s land mass.  The strain on food security and nutrition for the 15 million people living in this region is evident as the malnutrition rate is 65% compared to the national average of 29%.   The ASAL region also has a high number of children not attending school.  According to the Kenya Population and Housing Census (KPHC), the number of children attending school in the country is 18.3 million with a national enrolment average of 85%.  However, 90% of the 2.4 million children not attending school live in the ASAL region. 

The National Council for Nomadic Education in Kenya (NACONEK) was established as a semi-autonomous government agency under the Ministry of Education, and mandated to enhance access, retention and completion of education for the children living in the region with informal settlements and stricken with high poverty rates.  A survey conducted by NACONEK and UNICEF highlighted school feeding as key initiative to bring back children to schools and address issues related to food security and nutrition.  However, schools in the region face many infrastructure challenges with lack of refrigeration, potable water, electricity, and logistics, thus making access to safe nutrition an issue.

The initiative – introducing a ready-to-drink porridge to secure access to safe nutrition

As a key action, the “Porridge 4 Education Programme” was implemented by NACONEK.
To address the issues of food safety and access to safe nutrition in schools, a collaborative partnership approach was established between Tetra Pak, Tetra Pak Food for Development, Ingredion, DSM, and our customer Jetlak Foods Limited to develop the liquid ready-to-drink cereal based “Super Porridge” for the school children.
The product is produced using locally sourced crops, with an emphasis on locally grown climate resilient crops containing maize, soy, sorghum and sweet potato.  It is highly fortified with 15 micronutrients including Vitamin A, C, E, Calcium, Zinc & Iron.

Super porridge in Tetra Brik Aseptic carton package

Liquid ready-to-drink cereal based “Super Porridge” in Tetra Brik Aseptic carton. The product is produced using locally sourced crops and fortified with 15 micronutrients including Vitamin A, C, E, Calcium, Zinc & Iron.

School children in Kenya

School children in Kenya with “Super Porridge"

Ingredion is supporting with their expertise and technology in texturizing and stabilizing solutions, formulation development and desktop product development at their product development center in Kenya.  Royal DSM provided the fortification expertise for addition of vitamins and micro-nutrients as per local nutritional deficiencies.
The package chosen to distribute the product safely to schools was Tetra Brik Aseptic® 250ml. Base.  Multiple prototypes were prepared, and acceptability tests were conducted with the school children having an acceptability rate of 88%. 

Tetra Pak Food for Development has supported with the implementation of the pilot programme which is currently reaching 5,000 children across three counties.  Collection of baseline data to measure improved school attendance, enrolment, and health has been collected.  The children’s height, weight, and arm circumference were measured by NACONEK in the targeted pilot schools.  After the consumption of the porridge the empty carton packages will be collected and transported to a recycling facility in Nairobi to be converted into items like school material and desks.

Medical exam of school children
School boy putting Tetra Pak carton in recycling bin

The value – improved child health, school attendance, and job creation

By receiving regular nutrition, the health status of the children will improve whilst creating an incentive to go to school and reduce illiteracy rates.  Often times, the school meals are the only source of nutrition received as well.  The programme will also help enhance four local agriculture value chains in maize, soy, sorghum and the sweet potato, which are key ingredients of the product.

The development from training, production, aggregation, processing, storage, transport logistics, marketing and consumption will create 5,000 jobs for the youth across the value chains, and sustainable livelihoods for address poverty among 12,000 smallholder farmer households, who will be producing the cereals for the porridge thus they will receive a stable and secure income.

“We greatly value being part of this School Feeding Programme and working together in collaboration with all the stakeholders is highly important for Ingredion. We are delighted to see that the children appreciate both the texture and the taste of Super Porridge which has been developed at our idea lab facility in Nairobi, Kenya. After all, if it does not taste good the children will not drink it- no matter how nutritious it is” explains Kennedy Ouma, Business Director, Africa & Middle East
“To support NACONEK in their ambition to provide school children in the ASAL region with much needed nutrition is something we share with them and we are both proud and happy to support with our expertise and knowledge in fortification and nutrition” says Amar Ali, President, Africa Region

Looking ahead

This initiative aims to encourage enrolment for the 455,000 school children that are currently not attending school.  The programme also aims to reduce illiteracy rates by 30%, malnutrition rates by 50% and poverty index by 25% by 2026.

Partners have already started working on innovating with new formulations including fruit flavored variants to provide product variety for the children.  The aim is to introduce the Super Porridge concept to other countries in region together with our customers, partners and relevant stakeholders.  Thus, we commit to working in collaboration and our purpose to increase access to safe nutrition for the children.