Blessman International in Limpopo, South Africa, has a touching history with a clear mission and today feeds some 60,000 children via 10 food distribution hubs around the country. This has become a primary source of nutrition for these children, and eggs have come to play a big role.
Some 20 years ago, Dr Jim Blessman and his family left the comforts of a successful medical career in Iowa in the US and relocated to this remote part of South Africa to undertake the challenge of feeding and improving the overall well-being of local children. Provided in partnership with Convoy of Hope and Meals from the Heartland, daily meals originally consisted primarily of grains, soy, vegetables and vitamins.
Recognising the value and purpose of his mission, Hy-Line International, together with Andre van der Merwe, the GM at Hy-Line South Africa, wanted to get involved and joined Blessman with the goal of adding ‘an egg a day’ from a flock of Hy-Line Brown and Silver Brown layers to the feeding programme. Knowing the value that eggs would add to the rations Blessman, a medical doctor, welcomed their partnership. “We are excited to partner with our friends at Hy-Line to provide the children at our feeding centres with even more high-quality food,” said Dr Jim Blessman.
The Hyline International team and the project on the egg production side will draw on the expertise and technical support of Bruce Dooyema of egg producer Versova Egg company in Iowa (US), who has gained experience on similar projects in Africa. The birds are housed in an EasyStep cage system from Big Dutchman with manual feeding and egg collection. Three months after the project began, the pullets average mid-90% while livability is nearly 100%, according to Valeriy Stepenyenko, Hy-Line regional business manager (South Africa). And so, in January, the programme began.
For its launch, a small pilot ‘proof of concept’ programme started in which Hy-Line International, Hy-Line South Africa and Blessman International partnered to provide a minimum of one fresh egg per day to each child who receives a meal through the programme.
While providing these much-needed nutrients to children in the region, the project will also conduct a scientific study to track the health outcomes of a small group of children at Blessman’s nearby Mokopone site. These children suffering from malnutrition will be provided with food packets and two eggs per day. For this nutritional study, the team will partner with the University of Limpopo, the University of Venda and the University of Iowa medical staff to document improvements in health and overall cognition, and then conduct the analysis. It is anticipated that the study will conclude by mid-2024. With the scientific data in hand, the team will endeavour to upscale the programme to bring the benefits of egg consumption to a much larger population and eventually to Blessman’s wider 60,000 child feeding programme.
“Our goal is to demonstrate the clear and significant benefits of eggs and then determine how to expand the ‘egg a day’ concept over Blessman International’s overall feeding programme to reach even more kids. We can encourage cooperation in something like this if we accompany our efforts with data,” said Tom Dixon, global product manager of Hyline International. “We look forward to demonstrating the power of the egg as a sustainable protein and as part of the solution to reduce world hunger and improve overall health outcomes worldwide,” he added.