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Ministry of Agriculture, Fyffes sign Public Private Partnership for banana flour porridge for school feeding program

Posted: Wednesday, November 22, 2023. 10:51 am CST.

Agroprocessing Unit staff washing bananas for banana flour production – Photo Credit: MAFSE’s Agroprocessing Unit

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE) and Fyffes are on Wednesday signing a Public Private Partnership (PPP) for Fyffes to produce a banana flour porridge for a school feeding program in Bella Vista, Toledo.

In November 2021, the Ministry of Agriculture (Agroprocessing Unit), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá (INCAP), Fyffes, and the Our Lady of Bella Vista School signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding for a school-based pilot program that used bananas to provide nutritious meals to the school’s children.

“Building on the success of the second phase of the program, which ran from January 1st to May 15th, 2023, Fyffes, in collaboration with the Agro-processing unit, will continue producing a banana flour product made from local bananas,” MAFSE said.

“This nutrient-rich supplement will be distributed by Fyffes to local communities, contributing to the sustained improvement of the nutritional status of school-age children.”

MAFSE Minister Jose Abelardo Mai (left), Toledo East Area Representative and Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Michael Espat (2nd from left), and Fyffes representatives at Public Private Partnership (PPP) signing in Bella Vista – Photo Credit: MAFSE)

According to  MAFSE’s Agroprocessing Coordinator Earvin Gentle, during the two-year program, Fyffes will provide the Agroprocessing Unit the raw material and all ingredients to make the porridge, similar but not the same as gungude, a banana porridge that uses coconut milk. Gentle said Fyffes developed the formula of the nutritional food supplement.

Gentle said Fyffes will also acquire machinery, namely a pulverizer, for the Agroprocessing Unit and provide maintenance. A pulverizer is used to mill the product, in this case the bananas, from a dehydrated state to powder form.

Gentle said the Agroprocessing Unit will produce the flour and then mix it with sugar, powdered milk, cinnamon, and vanilla to flavour it. Fyffes will then give the porridge to the school children in Bella Vista.

Gentle added that Fyffes will collect weight and height data over a period of time to determine if there are increases and if those are correlated to the consumption of the banana flour supplement.

Steps in producing banana flour at MAFSE’s Agroprocessing Unit in Central Farm. (Photo Credit: MAFSE’s Agroprocessing Unit)

MAFSE said the project, which started in November 2021, had the objective of offering a well-balanced nutrient supplement to at-risk groups in Belize and was expected to “yield many positive benefits to both children by improving their health and the attendance and grades in school”.

“Malnutrition mainly in the form of stunting and underweight has been documented in high prevalence rates within Stann Creek and Toledo districts which are neighborhood communities to the Fyffes farms in Belize,” MAFSE said.

In 2021, MAFSE said that if the school feeding program base piloted in Bella Vista were successful, it would be extended to other schools.

Bella Vista is a village in the banana belt near Independence with a population that surpasses 3,500 inhabitants.

 

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