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Bolivia: Soy Helps Improve Nutrition and Medical Treatment

Almost a year ago, WFP started a project aimed at assisting some 650 people living with HIV who were receiving antiretroviral treatment and were identified as highly food insecure. Every month, while receiving their medical treatment at the health center, these people also receive a family food basket made up of rice, soy grains, salt and vegetable oil.

Juana Luque Mamani displays her dishes at the Food Fair. (Copyright: WFP/Ximena Loza)

Almost a year ago, WFP started a project aimed at assisting some 650 people living with HIV who were receiving antiretroviral treatment and were identified as highly food insecure. Every month, while receiving their medical treatment at the health center, these people also receive a family food basket made up of rice, soy grains, salt and vegetable oil.

Eating Habits Exclude Soy

In the nutritionist’s own words, the fact of delivering soy grains implied a true challenge to them, as they had to create a variety of recipes with these pulses. The reason is that soy grain is not a regularly consumed food, yet Bolivia produces large amounts of this pulse. For the same reason, beneficiaries encountered difficulties in the preparation of soy grain at the beginning of the project, but they added enthusiasm to the work of creating soja-based preparations as they learnt from the nutritional orientation that this pulse provides high levels of protein, extremely important for their medical treatment adherence.

Food Fair

After a year of having started the project, WFP and the health centers for people living with HIV in the cities of La Paz and El Alto organized a Soy Food Fair, in which beneficiaries showed and tasted a great variety of dishes prepared with soy: starters, soups, main courses, desserts, sweets and snacks.

Soy Becomes A Staple Food For People Living with HIV

Juana Luque Mamani lives in the city of El Alto, but comes originally from the rural areas. With 41 years, she supports her five children on her own. She confesses that more than a year ago she was diagnosed with HIV, but left the treatment almost as soon as she started it because her nutritional situation was poor and medicines made her feel even more tired and weak. However, when she realized that other people living with HIV were improving their nutritional status with WFP’s food basket and nutritional guidance, Juana decided to get back to treatment. For her and for her family, the four products of WFP’s food basket have turned into the basis of their diet. “We had never before eaten soy, we did not know it…I have received WFP’s soy recipe booklet, but I’m illiterate, so I had to create preparations with soy”, says Juana. She and her family eat soy-based food three times a week, but they drink self-made soja milk every day. Among her specialties are fritters, hamburgers and soja stew. “To me, as well as to the other people living with HIV, WFP’s support has turned into everyday’s bread…WFP has not only given us food to have a better diet, but has also taught us how to improve our nutrition.”

Soy Is Not Costly And It Is Highly Nutritious

El Alto nutritionist’s Isela Patón considers that once WFP withdraws its food aid from the project, beneficiaries will still be able to continue consuming soy as it is not costly at all and is as nutritious as other native grains such as quinoa. WFP and the National STD/HIV/AIDS Programme of the Plurinational State of Bolivia -the government institution with which the project is being run-, were extremely careful in the selection of the food basket products, basing the assortment not only on availability of the products, but also on their prices at the local markets.