MSU food researchers receive $100k grant to help improve diets, health of moms and babies in Uganda

MSU Food Science and Human Nutrition researchers were awarded a Gates grant for the Next Generation Nutrition in Uganda Project to develop a fortified bean sauce that can improve the diets of pregnant women and their babies.

Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition faculty members Lorraine Weatherspoon and Muhammad Siddiq, together with Jose Jackson Malete from the Alliance for African Partnership, were recently awarded a $100,000 grant through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This grant is going to fund research towards the Next Generation in Uganda Project and is a collaboration with the Food Technology Department at Kyambogo University and Numa Foods, a Ugandan firm.

The goal is to develop a culturally acceptable sauce that’s made with bio-fortified beans, local fish and dissolves easily in hot water. The product will help meet the higher iron and folic acid needs of pregnant women, especially those with low incomes who are living in areas of high risk for microcytic anemia, low birth weight and neural tube defects in Uganda.

When asked about the final product, Weaterspoon said, “Our hypothesis is that the product we develop will be more appealing than in the pill form, safe and convenient in delivery of adequate amounts of these key nutrients, as well as complementary to other national initiatives in Uganda, in low income communities.”

Furthermore, Weatherspoon emphasized the importance of this sauce in a baby’s life. “Pregnant women are an important target in the World Health Organization’s 1000-day window for improving both maternal and child nutritional and developmental outcomes, provided that early intervention is given.”

This is a pilot grant which allows researchers to apply for increased support for their work in the future. The Gates Foundation selects projects to fund through a four-stage process. After developing and presenting a concept and pre-proposal, researchers are then funded accordingly on a case-by-case basis.

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