In this project, we are bringing to world attention a technique that is potentially effective for feeding those children at highest risk: the ones born to the poorest of the poor, the ones whose mothers are themselves badly malnourished, and the weanling orphans with no mothers at all. The new technique is notably promising for use in remote locations, in times of need, and in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters. It can thus reach the populations where mortality from malnutrition is greatest. It complements breast feeding and makes the weaning process more successful for the most threatened individuals in locations where milk and baby formula are unavailable.

The prime "tool" in this new technique is food-grade malted barley. This white powder is nothing more than ground-up sprouted barley grains. It is a flavoring ingredient in malted milk, corn flakes, Grape Nuts, Wonder bread, English muffins, pizza crusts, Milky Way bars and many more foods. The United States produces thousands of tons of it annually, but little is now used to help starving babies survive.

Nonetheless, food-grade malted barley flour could save lives. It is rich in the enzymes that digest starch. Indeed, it digests starch so well that it turns any hot boiled staple (raw grain) into a liquid. We call it PowerFlour because it causes such a spectacular transformation.

The approach we envision involves no change in diet, no complex routines to learn, and barely any change in life-style. PowerFlour would be employed solely to turn a portion of the family food staple into a form babies can be nourished with. Children have difficulty swallowing corn mush, rice, potato, sorghum, and dozens of other "solids." PowerFlour converts these boiled staples into liquids to be drunk. In other words, solids that infants struggle to ingest become suddenly easy to handle with a baby's natural born instincts.

Using PowerFlour is simple. The mother merely adds the powder to the hot pablum, porridge, mash, mush or gruel that constitute the basic diet of the poorest of the poor families. The conversion occurs almost instantaneously. The quantity used is very small: a teaspoon of PowerFlour easily liquefies a gallon of corn porridge, mashed potatoes, or other boiled staple. The cost is negligible; the price of a teaspoon of PowerFlour, for instance, is not even 1/10 of a cent. Two pinches of PowerFlour in a cup of hot gruel does the trick.

Taste is no limitation. PowerFlour gives malted milkshakes their flavor. Moreover, its enzymes release sugars from the starch, so the liquefied product becomes doubly palatable (better tasting). Despite some studies of weaning foods made with starch-digesting enzymes, nothing like this instant, barley-based, food-liquefying catalyst has been employed before.

In everyday practice in the Third World village, the mother merely scoops a portion from the family cooking pot, stirs in a little PowerFlour, and passes the resulting fluid to her weanling child. No more fighting to get pablum down; no more diluting pasty foods with potentially contaminated water; no more digestive difficulties from a wad of starch balled up in a tiny, tender stomach. The baby feeds itself by sucking a sweetish liquid from a cup.

PowerFlour samples could be supplied by the local health service, rural clinics, relief agencies, or other organizations. The raw ingredient could be provided in bulk or in pre-packaged form by the United States, Denmark, The Netherlands, South Africa, Japan, or other countries that make food-grade malted barley. The cost would be about 1 cent per child. One cent buys enough PowerFlour to catalyze the liquefaction of 100 cup-sized servings of the local staple. Ingesting that much food will ensure an infant a full stomach at least once a day. That in turn will remove the threat from inadequate food intake during the early weaning period.

The process is safe. The food has been boiled and thereby rendered free of infection. More than 99 percent of it is the local staple, eaten since time immemorial. The added PowerFlour (less than 1 percent) is itself wholesome. The only real changes are the liquid consistency and the disappearance of starch. In most cases the latter will cause no problem, but the released sugars may prolong any diarrhea outbreak.

The PowerFlour Action Network was established to get this process employed with dispatch. Through the Network, information is communicated to audiences ranging from national leaders to field workers. Trial PowerFlour samples are provided to interested parties. Research results and field responses are being compiled for dissemination. The Network's written documentation include a technical overview, a field-guide in different languages, and a newsletter published several times a year. Electronic dissemination is via this website and an e-mail service to answer questions and take orders for PowerFlour. A videotape demonstrating product usage is also in the works.

Although the ultimate outcome of this project can only be speculated on, we are confident that the results will be profound. Already, a program directed by former president Jimmy Carter and Nobel Prizewinner Norman Borlaug has found that malnourished children in Ghana's villages ingest three times more food using the PowerFlour process. Observers consider that the method makes the difference between life and death for those children. Similar results are reported from Haiti and other spots where fatal malnutrition is prevalent.

PowerFlour International is established as an IRS-approved nonprofit organization under code 501(3)(c). Its activities will help garner the worldwide attention this innovation deserves. In this way, PowerFlour International might well accomplish in a few short years, and at modest cost, a result that multinational, multi-million dollar organizations could take pride in accomplishing over decades. At present, PowerFlour is hardly known to such organizations. By stimulating them and also others outside the mainstream we can swing open a new window of opportunity for reducing the death rate among the world's littlest and least deserving sufferers.

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