Child nutrition and Project SPAMMY in Guatemala
SPAMMY fortified poultry spread was designed by Hormel Foods and named after the company’s iconic SPAM family of products. It was created to help address malnutrition in children.
Based on findings from earlier nutritional research conducted by Hormel Foods, the SPAMMY product was tailored to meet the specific micronutrient needs of children in Guatemala. The product is used as an ingredient and blends easily into customary diets. As part of a public/private partnership between the USDA’s McGovern-Dole program and Hormel Foods, the latest research demonstrated the benefits of supplementing traditional diets with micronutrients and high-quality protein.
During the trial, more than 160 preschool-age children in Guatemala ate either a fortified or unfortified version of the SPAMMY product on school days over a 20-week period. Both versions were identical in protein, calories and fat. The fortified version contained several added micronutrients, such as vitamins D and B12, which Guatemalan children are often deficient.
The study revealed:
- All participants showed greater-than-expected improvement in cognitive scores
- All participants experienced a 44 percent reduction in the number of school days missed because of illness
- Children who received the fortified SPAMMY product showed statistical improvements in Vitamin D and B12 levels
- A positive correlation was found between increase in cognitive gain scores and Vitamin D concentrations in the children that received the fortified product.
Research study details
Millions of children around the world suffer from chronic malnutrition. Hormel Foods’ collaborative effort was built on the premise that changing lives occurs only through building sustainable solutions. The project focused on delivering proper nutrition through our expertise in protein and by building partnerships. Together with the USDA, Food for The Poor and in-country partners Center for Study of Sensory Impairment, Aging and Metabolism (CeSSIAM) and Caritas, we implemented a feeding program to evaluate the benefits of SPAMMY products for preschool-age children living in a low-income area in Guatemala.
A total of 167 children at a day-care center located in Ciudad Peronia, a semi-rural city approximately eight miles outside of Guatemala City, completed the randomized, double-blind trial. The control group received a daily meal containing unfortified SPAMMY product, and the treatment group received a fortified version. The fortified product contained a vitamin and mineral blend that included, among other micronutrients, Vitamin D, several B vitamins including Vitamin B12, iron, zinc and iodine. Anthropometric measurements and blood draws were completed at both baseline and endline; a subset of 60 children also completed cognitive tests before and after the 20-week trial.
Meals containing the SPAMMY product were prepared on-site and were served at the beginning of the school day. A two-week rotating menu was created that incorporated the SPAMMY product into traditional foods such as dobladas, tostadas, chuchitos, or rice and black beans. Four women were hired from the community to monitor and record consumption and liking. The meals were well accepted among the children throughout the 20-week intervention.
Over the course of the program, school days missed because of illness decreased and teachers reported children were better able to pay attention after eating the meal. Hemoglobin levels increased in both treatment and control groups. Bloodline Vitamin D levels increased in the treatment group and decreased in the control group while levels of Vitamin B12 increased in the treatment group and remained steady in the control group.
The Bracken Basic Concept Scale - Receptive was administered to assess intellectual function at baseline and endline for a subset of children. Both groups had greater-than-expected higher scores on the cognitive test at study completion and a positive relationship was found between Vitamin D and cognitive gain among the treatment group.
Educational workshops were provided throughout the intervention. These included informational sessions for day-care staff, parents and caregivers to increase community knowledge of nutrition and food safety. Workshops covered the importance of micronutrients by life stage and food-related hygiene. Local experts helped develop and present information in a culturally relevant format.
This latest research, built on previous work conducted by Hormel Foods, shows vitamins D and B12 are of public-health concern in this population in Guatemala. A 2011 survey of preschool-age children living in urban and rural locations in Guatemala illustrated that 36 percent and 77 percent had low Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D values, respectively. In response to these results the fortified SPAMMY product was reformulated to address the documented nutritional needs of the region.
Hormel Foods has been working with partners in Guatemala since 2008 to provide SPAMMY products to malnourished children. In total, we’ve donated approximately 14 million cans of SPAMMY since its inception.
Hormel Foods and its partners Caritas and Food For The Poor are also building opportunities for thousands of families by providing SPAMMY products to 8,300 families with more than 30,000 children in Guatemala. Additionally, Project SPAMMY provides scholarships to eight high school-age students to attend the Villa de los Niños boarding school in Guatemala City.
SPAMMY products have been a great example of public-private partnership, combining organizations in the U.S. and Guatemala to provide meaningful solutions to childhood malnutrition. SPAMMY products are now on the USAID food aid list for use in hunger relief efforts under the generic name, “Fortified Poultry-Based Spread.” NP