Peoria Journal Star

September 30, 2003

ADM to contribute to world food program Project will promote use of soy products in developing countries

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Illinois soybean farmers are teaming up with the United Nations World Food Programme to help improve nutrition for school children in Cote d'Ivoire, while hoping over the long-term to develop new soybean markets.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. of Decatur will contribute 90 tons of its textured soy product to the West African nation - enough to feed 40,000 students over a four-month period beginning in January. ADM's contribution is valued at about $500,000, said Judith Lewis, director of U.S. relations for the U.N. World Food Programme.

The immediate goal of the school food program is to help stabilize a country once described as a West African success story. A coup in 1999 and a military uprising in 2002 forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes and closed many schools. Organizers hope the school food program will not only fight malnutrition, but also serve as an incentive for children to return to school. The school lunch might be the only meal that some get, they said.

"During periods of conflict, it is often the most vulnerable who become victims, particularly the children," Lewis said at a press conference at the National Press Club. Technical assistance for the pilot program will be provided by the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH), an organization launched by soybean growers three years ago to help promote the use of soy products in developing countries where the added protein could improve nutrition.

For ADM, there is an added incentive for seeking to help stabilize Cote d'Ivoire. The company employs 450 people there in cocoa processing plants. 

"To us, this just makes good business sense," said Tony DeLio, ADM vice president for marketing and public relations. 

It takes about 80 bushels of soybeans, or one acre, to make a ton of textured soy protein, DeLio said. The dried chunks can be mixed with traditional foods such as palm nut stew over rice to increase protein content.

WISSH, ADM and the U.N.'s World Food Programme also are working with food processors in the country to use soy in a variety of foods and beverages for school-age children. Illinois' National Soybean Research Laboratory will help train local volunteers to add textured soy protein to native foods.

For soybean growers, the program also has the long-term potential of developing future customers for their product, said Sharon Covert, president of the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board and who grows soybeans on her Bureau County farm. As consumers understand and become used to the nutritional benefits, food processors recognize soy's value and become future customers, Covert said.