NutVal 2008: Implementation of Optimisation Algorithms in the Planning of Food Aid Rations


The application of linear programming and other mathematical optimisation techniques is common practise in the business world but has only recently entered the world of human public health nutrition.

In essence, the approach allows a user to make decisions on how to allocate limited resources (e.g. food stocks) so as to achieve an optimal outcome (e.g. dietary quality) while minimising costs. These techniques offer the potential to improve the design of food products, analyse the best possible diet obtainable at a given price, and optimise the design of food aid rations.

The World Food Programme (WFP) currently supplies food to about 23 million people and is working to improve the nutritional impact of its programmes. However, it has been documented that food aid rations frequently fail to meet minimum standards for nutrient content and outbreaks of micronutrient malnutrition in food aid dependent populations have resulted.

What we are doing

This project builds on previous work by the Nutrition in Crisis Research Group in developing the spreadsheet application NutVal 2006.

Design of a user friendly software application to facilitate a planning process for food aid rations that ensures that minimum nutritional standards are met, while at the same time minimising costs, will provide a valuable tool for improving the performance of food aid operations.

We are working in close collaboration with colleagues in WFP, Rome, and UNHCR, Geneva, to ensure that the design of this enhanced software tool is as user oriented and practical as possible.

NutVal Web Site

A NutVal website has now been launched where the latest news on development will be posted, and comments, suggestions and bug reports are welcomed.  The latest version of NutVal (currently NutVal 2006) is also available for download and news on the development of an updated version can also be found on the NutVal site.