Status of Dairy in Food Aid

September 24, 2013
Author(s): USDEC

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), hunger and malnutrition are still the number one risk to health, worldwide. “Hunger kills, lowers IQ, decreases wages, reduces school attendance and undermines nutrition growth.”1 There is a global recognition of the debilitating effects of malnutrition, particularly in the first 1,000 days, and stunting, on the health, physical and mental development of populations, as well as on the overall economic development of affected countries. Globally in 2011, an estimated 26% of children under-five years of age are stunted. Moderate malnutrition affects 195 million children. 

Approximately 40% of children in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are stunted.2,3 Stunting has been dubbed “the new plague” of our century: stunted children never reach their full growth potential, physically and mentally.   For this reason, it is well recognized now that the “right nutrition” boosts economic development. Nutrition security, as opposed to just food security, is now at the core of the agenda.

Dairy may help address this new plague and prevent new cases of stunting in moderately malnourished children. Is dairy “the cure” to this global “plague?” Scientific evidence continues to mount that dairy protein plays a key role in both the treatment and prevention of malnutrition. There is strong evidence that: 

UNICEF Purchases 2013
  • Milk stimulates weight gain and linear growth in infancy
  • Cow's milk stimulates linear growth in nutritionally vulnerable children
  • Whey proteins support lean body mass growth, muscle recovery
  • Dairy proteins have a superior nutritional quality (see article on DIAAS)
  • Other components in milk (lactose, minerals such as phosphorus) are important in re-nutrition

“There is still a lot we do not know”, says Lagrange, “such as how much dairy exactly can help prevent stunting. You now: what is the exact dose needed to save a child?  And the mechanism of action: What are the role of the proteins, lactose, and minerals?  We need this information so that policy makers can incorporate supplementation with dairy, once and for all, as part of their official guidelines.”

USDEC is funding, in collaboration with US and international teams, clinical research to identify the definite dose of dairy ingredients that is effective for both the treatment of moderate malnutrition and prevention of stunting.  “We are also working on a global research plan,” adds Lagrange. “This will help accelerate the advancement of science in this sector and support nutrition policies in many emerging countries too. In turn, this will lead to increased demand in South Asia and Sub-Sahara Africa.”

For now, several dairy ingredients are already used in ready-to-use supplementary foods that are purchased by UNICEF, Doctors without Borders, and more recently, USAID.  There are several US Suppliers and an international network of small certified entrepreneurs interested in using US whey proteins, permeate and milk powders.  Demand is growing fast; UNICEF alone is buying 35,000 mt of these supplements, up from less than 2,000 mt 8 years ago!

“In addressing the problem of global nutrition security,” says Laurence Rycken, nutrition officer for the International Dairy Federation, “a focus on whole foods such as dairy foods, rather than on single nutrients, can lead to sufficiency in several micronutrients and macronutrients, improved growth and overall better health.”

Milk and dairy ingredients can play a key role in meeting the goal of eradicating stunting. The “size of the prize” for US ingredients is estimated at a minimum of 60,000 mt  (up to 200,000 mt), SMP equivalent, yearly, by 2016.  Now is the time to act to optimize the opportunity, and mostly, to help save the future of 195 million children.  


Dairy Ingredients for Food Aid 2013



*Estimated current usage and   potential projected use of dairy ingredients in nutrition products for vulnerable groups, globally.

**Blended products, including “affordable” milk products for pregnant and lactating women. 





  1. World Food Program www.wfp.org https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, The World Bank, UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition  Estimates, 2011 revision (completed July 2012)
  3.  https://www.wfp.org/hunger/stats
  4. Dallas Weekly, “Global Malnutrition – The 21st Century Childhood Plague,” March 2010.