A project that connects Iowa State University with a university and communities in Uganda is helping that African nation improve school nutrition and food safety.
ISU’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods works to help schools improve their lunch programs. Ag engineering professor Tom Brumm says many Ugandan families pay school fees with corn, but an ISU student project found the grain wasn’t always stored properly.
“Over 53% of the maize that they took in was lost, just gone,” Brumm says, “and a lot of that was due to insects. That’s important, that’s a whole month of school feeding.” That data provided a wake-up call, he says, as the project now works to supply schools with sealable plastic storage bins.
The ISU center used to help Ugandan schools buy corn flour at a local market, but testing revealed it was contaminated with a harmful toxin. Brumm says that’s when the program bought its own mill. “We have a moral obligation to do something about it. We cannot do this anymore,” Brumm says. “So, I guess that was a little more than an ‘aha’ moment. It was a clarion call for us to change our practices.”
In addition to sourcing safe grain for the school, Brumm says the project works to ensure area farmers have the tools they needed to dry and store grain properly. That will help prevent the toxin from appearing and also help farmers earn more profit. The ISU project in Uganda dates back to 2003.
(By Amy Mayer, Iowa Public Radio/Photo by Jim Heemstra, ISU Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods)