Do you love rice? Me too, and we’re hardly alone. About 2.5 billion people in the world eat rice as their main source of food – but many of those are malnourished and suffer deficiencies of iron, folic acid, vitamin A and other essential nutrients.
So Seattle-based PATH, a global health nonprofit, has developed Ultra Rice, a pasta-fortified extruded grain that can be mixed (1 grain to 100) with rice as a potential solution for malnutrition. The specific micronutrients can even be customized to meet the needs of different populations, and Ultra Rice is so versatile, it can be made to resemble the short-grained rice of China or the long, thin rice of Brazil. What’s most important is that Ultra Rice looks, smells and tastes just like rice, so it fits right into a country’s culinary traditions.
Right now, Ultra Rice is being served to 300,000 schoolchildren daily in India and Brazil, where it costs about 40 cents a child per year for kids to glean all the benefits of rice fortification. What’s the big deal with that? Well, anemia alone can harm brain development and increase the risk of hemorrhaging and death in childbirth – and 50% of women and 70% of children under five are anemic in India. Vitamin A deficiency is responsible for the deaths of almost a million children worldwide, and folic acid deficiency can cause severe birth defects. So packing vitamins and nutrients into the rice people already eat is a simple, effective way of improving the health of people around the globe.
It’s innovations like Ultra Rice that makes PATH such an incredible organization. For over 30 years, PATH has been committed to improving the health of people around the world by bringing health technology, innovation and ingenuity where it’s needed most – and working with communities, public and private companies, and governments to make sure it gets delivered most effectively.
The people of PATH are amazingly diverse – hailing from Guatemala and Kenya, Cambodia and Pakistan, China and the Ukraine – but they are uniformly committed to helping developing countries achieve more equitable, sustainable and culturally relevant heathcare solutions so that babies can live, mothers can flourish, and good health is within reach of every person.
Every day, PATH is working in 70 countries worldwide to bring human ingenuity to bear on the enormous challenges posed by AIDS, TB, malaria, polio, and every major global health issue – through better technology, distribution strategies, and practical, on-the-ground logistics.
I love this organization…and the idea that my $100 donation will help PATH offer 250 children in India a healthy lunch of rice for a year. If you’d like to contribute ($20 will fund 50 kids) , click here!
What Gives News Flash!
In an act of shameless self-promotion, I’d like to introduce you to a cool new site called Mothers of Invention. This week, it’s featuring…me! Check it out – it’ll be featuring lots of women, each with her own take on reinventing motherhood, which as every mother knows, we do on a daily basis.
Bronxboy is right in a way, though the main threats to Ultra Rice come not from anti-science forces but from complacency–and perhaps also from much more costly competing commercial technologies. By the way, it is NOT genetically modified and contains only tiny amounts of anything besides rice flour and nutrients. In fact, as with almost all technologies PATH works with, it’s not a high-tech product; it’s made from cold extrusion machines so simple you can buy counter-top models. (Declaration: I used to direct the program…)
Ultra Rice sounds like such a great idea that I can almost hear the anti-science fanatics complaining about it: “Genetically modified! Filled with synthetics and preservatives! Weakens the immune system! Not natural!” (Never mind that it’s helping to save lives.) Thank you, Betty, for supporting this organization and the work it’s doing.