Think big. That’s the message Assistant Professor, Food, Nutrition and Health, Judy McLean wants to pass on to her students.
It’s advice she follows herself. When McLean visited rural Rwanda eight years ago and saw how malnourished the children were, she immediately thought of a vitamin and mineral home fortification system Dr. Stan Zlotkin, a pediatrician at the University of Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital, had created. It sparked an idea to bring Zlotkin’s Micronutrient Powders to the children of Rwanda.
“Sixty percent of Rwandan families live below the poverty line,” McLean said. “It’s almost impossible for these kids to get the nutrients they need. Adding micronutrient powers to their food will help give Rwandan children the same opportunity for growth and health as kids in western countries.”
McLean brought her idea to the Rwandan Mister of Health. As a result, beginning in March 2012, 150,000 Rwandan children aged 6-23 months will be given the Micronutrient Powders. Each child will receive 10-15 small sachets per month at a cost of two cents per package.
McLean and a group of UBC Human Nutrition students piloted the program last Fall with 60 Rwandan children, following several months of ground level research that included focus groups and interviews with Rwandan mothers.
“It was important to get the mother’s involved. Their attitudes and perceptions helped us create appealing packaging and key messages,” said McLean. “At the end of the day, Rwandan mothers are like mothers everywhere – they just want the best for their kids.”
The project has received funding from Unicef, World Vision, Care, Concern, and The World Food Program. Unicef has asked McLean to help implement the project in Zambia in 2012, with other countries to follow.