Illinois soybean farmer Bill Wykes, Yorkville, IL, was part of a team yesterday participating in final preparations to send a shipment of soy flour to Afghanistan. Wykes and other representatives from the American Soybean Association's (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and USDA were on hand in Portsmouth, VA, to see the 3,525 50-lb. bags of soy flour off at the Port of Virginia. The high-protein soy will benefit 5,000 women and their families.

"We applaud USDA for putting soy to such good use," says Wykes, who serves as a WISHH director and Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) director. "Soy is a great way to help improve individual lives through nutrition, as well as the economies of developing countries."

Wykes joined other ASA and state soybean leaders from Virginia and North Carolina and USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum at the event. USDA purchased the soy flour as part of its cooperative agreement with ASA under the USDA Food for Progress Program. Cargill's Cedar Rapids, IA, facility produced the soy flour – a product that readily increases protein content of traditional breads and is used to make other soy foods.

Once the soy flour completes its 7,000+-mile journey, WISHH and its partners will work with the Afghanistan Ministry of Women's Affairs to distribute for four months "family size" portions of the soy flour to pregnant and lactating women and their families.

"UNICEF estimates more than half of Afghan children under age five suffer from moderate or severe stunting. Twenty-five percent of children die before reaching their fifth birthdays," says Wykes. "The health of rural Afghan women and children is often the worst in the nation."

The soy flour activity is part of the larger USDA-funded Soybeans in Agricultural Renewal of Afghanistan (SarAi) project. SarAi will provide a total of 240 metric tons (mt) of defatted soy flour, 13,750 mt of soybean oil and 6,000 mt of soybeans over three years. During the life of the program and its activities, the project will benefit more than 405,000 Afghan people.

In addition to WISHH, SarAi program participants include CBI Global located in Ohio, California-based Nutrition and Education International Inc. (NEI), SALT International of Iowa, and Shelter for Life International, which is headquartered in Minnesota.