Fundación MAPFRE and Fundación Grupo Siro have announced today that they will distribute a total of two million nutritional biscuits enriched with vitamins and minerals to help cover the nutritional deficiencies of 20,000 families with dietary deficiencies.
Their distribution in Spain will begin in September and will be carried out through the Sé Solidario project of Fundación MAPFRE, the Spanish Federation of Food Banks (FESBAL) and MAPFRE’s network of volunteers.
The biscuits, which will be distributed free of charge and are not available for sale to the public, have been developed by Fundación Grupo Siro as a food supplement and can provide the energy and nutrients a person needs to cover their recommended daily intake. This aspect is key in view of the difficulty that social entities have in preserving, and therefore providing, fresh food, which is essential for a balanced diet.
The main distinguishing feature of this biscuit is that, for only 30 cents, which is the cost of 100 grams, 50% of the vitamins and minerals a person needs every day are guaranteed.
The product contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, D and E and folic acid, as well as protein, calcium, iron, magnesium, iodine and high fibre content. Wholemeal flours, high oleic sunflower oil and reduced amounts of salt and sugars below the critical limit stipulated by the WHO have been used in its production, which has enabled it to obtain a Nutriscore A rating. The recommendations of the CODEX Alimentarius Global, as well as the criteria of the Pan American Health Organisation’s nutrient profiling model, have also been taken into account.
Hidden hunger and malnutrition
“In Spain there are cases of hidden hunger, a situation that may have increased as a result of the pandemic”, stressed the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN), an organisation that supports the project and which has been collaborating with Fundación MAPFRE for years on projects related to nutrition and healthy lifestyles. This term, “hidden hunger”, which affects more than 2,000 million people in the world and 24.3% of the population under 5 years of age in Europe, according to Unicef, refers to the situation of malnutrition currently experienced by those people who, with an adequate energy intake, do not manage to cover the needs of some micronutrients, such as vitamins A and D, and the minerals iron and zinc.
There are also the elderly, a “vulnerable group”, who traditionally “suffer a higher risk of malnutrition”, among other causes, due to lack of appetite, chewing problems, polymedication, physical inactivity and loneliness.
Pandemic and dietary changes
“Between 2019 and 2020, Spain has experienced changes in nutrition,” the FEN said today. During this period, it has indicated, Spaniards have increased the consumption of all food groups, and therefore calories, and after several years of moderate decline, they have gone from consuming 1,965 kcal on average in 2019, to 2,194 kcal, in 2020. These figures, which in the opinion of the Spanish Nutrition Foundation are not necessarily negative, do highlight the imbalance in the calorie profile that has been dragging on for years and which does not fit in with the traditional Mediterranean dietary pattern.
The data, from the Food Consumption Panel of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA), also indicate that during 2020 more of almost everything has been consumed (on average, 4.4% more), and that among the most consumed foods in this period the group of non-alcoholic beverages stands out, These include mineral water, herbal teas, coffee, soft drinks and juices (361.0 g/person/day), followed by milk and milk products (312.7 g/person/day), fruit (283.2 g/person/day) and vegetables (280.5 g/person/day). In contrast, the foods least consumed in households this year were pulses (15.8 g/person/day) and eggs (26.7 g/person/day).
United against malnutrition
With the development of the nutritional biscuit, Fundación MAPFRE and Fundación Grupo Siro are joining forces to fight malnutrition, which has increased in all countries as a result of the pandemic. In this sense, both entities have signed today a collaboration agreement, which officially approves the donation of the two million biscuits, as well as the support of Fundación MAPFRE to the project that Fundación Grupo Siro has recently launched in Guatemala, where the levels of chronic child malnutrition are worrying, and to a volunteer programme in which MAPFRE employees and their families will participate.
The event was held at I+Dea, the research and development centre of Cerealto Siro Foods, in El Espinar, Segovia, and was attended by HRH the Infanta Elena, director of Projects of Fundación MAPFRE, who visited the I+Dea centre in the company of Juan Manuel González Serna, president of Fundación Grupo Siro, and shared impressions with the research team that has developed the enriched biscuit after two years of work.
Lucía Urbán, vice-president of Fundación Grupo Siro; Julio Domingo, general manager of Fundación MAPFRE; Daniel Restrepo, director of Social Action of Fundación MAPFRE; Antonio Vigil-Escalera, territorial general manager of MAPFRE in the Central area; and Antonio Sánchez, territorial manager of MAPFRE in the southeast area of Castilla y León, also participated in the event.
Impact on development and growth
“Malnutrition is a problem that affects more than 800 million people in the world”, emphasised Julio Domingo, general manager of Fundación MAPFRE, who also referred to Unicef data indicating that Spain is among the European Union countries with the highest rates of child malnutrition. “We are talking about many people who currently do not have access to food that provides them with the recommended nutrients, with the impact this has on their health and, in the case of children, on their development and growth. “Joining Fundación Grupo Siro’s mission to fight malnutrition, and being the first to be able to do so in Spain through this project, gives us great satisfaction,” he said.
Juan Manuel González-Serna, president of Fundación Grupo Siro, was also very happy about the creation of “this pioneering, non-profit product, which has been the result of two years of research by a Spanish team”. He was also “very grateful to Fundación MAPFRE for helping us to fulfil a dream, which is to contribute to reducing malnutrition in the world”, a task, he pointed out, “that we cannot do alone”. In this sense, the president of the Siro Group Foundation encouraged other NGOs, foundations, private companies and local administrations to join the project and thus contribute to combating malnutrition.
In addition to Fundación MAPFRE, other partners in the programme include HM Hospitales and the HM Hospitales Research Foundation, Food For The Poor, Cáritas Arquidiocesana de Guatemala, Digisalud and DHL Supply Chain, among others.
Guatemala, fourth most malnourished country in the world
In Guatemala, where the Siro Group Foundation has already donated a total of 40,000 kilos of nutritional biscuits, the organisation will soon launch a clinical trial with the aim of validating the efficacy of this product in food and verifying its positive impact on health. The study will be carried out among 200 children, aged between 3 and 6 years, and will be led by HM Hospitales Research Foundation, in collaboration with Cáritas Arquidiocesana de Guatemala and Digisalud.
Currently, in this country, almost half of children under five years of age (49.8%) suffer from chronic malnutrition, which makes Guatemala the first country in Latin America and the fourth in the world with the highest child malnutrition, according to UNICEF data.