It was during that first trip that the we learned that the schools in the area only had enough funds to feed the children every other day. And school was often the only place where kids were fed at all. There’s a saying in Haiti, “hungry bellies, have no ears.” When a child is hungry, they are unable to learn. That’s when we decided we wanted to help on a larger scale.
There’s a saying in Haiti, “hungry bellies, have no ears.”
I immediately thought about my mother. I was brought up in a house where my mom would buy wheat in buckets, and she would grind the wheat and bake bread every day. Breads made from fresh-ground ingredients contain every essential vitamin and nutrient that the human body needs. I immediately began to think about how I could help feed these kids by baking bread.
The Nutritional Value of Wheat
When we mill the whole wheat berry, we know we are getting the full nutritional value of the complete grain, including the bran (the outer layer) which contains the largest amount of insoluble fiber, magnesium, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, iron, and zinc; and the germ (or seed) which is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, E, magnesium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The endosperm (middle layer) contains mostly protein and carbohydrates along with small amounts of B vitamins, iron and soluble fiber. And here is why I think this information is important: With the advent of industrial milling in the late 1800s, we began filtering out the bran and germ and used only the remaining endosperm, resulting in what we know as all-purpose white flour. The advantage: this stripped down, lifeless version of flour has a shelf life of several months. The downside: We lost the important insoluble fiber and minerals, a combination essential for proper digestion and nourishment.
Here is a picture showing what a whole grain kernel looks like:
My mother used to say: "Within one day of grinding or milling 40% percent of the nutrients have oxidized" (and being kids we would make fun of her: “Sure mom, you can actually see the nutrients fly away?”) Well, she was right. Upon further study I found that within 72 hours of grinding or milling, 90% percent of the nutrients have been destroyed. What is left are “empty calories,” mostly starch. I have often wondered if the consumption of refined flour is one reason gluten sensitivity has become such an epidemic in this country.
The benefits of whole grains most documented by repeated studies (according to The Whole Grains Council) include:
• stroke risk reduced 30-36%
• type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%
• heart disease risk reduced 25-28%
• better weight maintenance
Pretty amazing, right?
So, why not just buy Whole Grain Flour?
You might be thinking: “I am buying whole grain (maybe even organic) flour, so I should be OK.” Well, whole grain flour is frequently produced by first separating and then recombining ground bran with endosperm flour. The germ which contains important antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids is often left out, because the flour would go rancid too quickly.
It took me a while to understand that “whole grain” on food labels doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is all or mostly whole grain; it may be mostly white flour. It really depends on the product and I encourage everybody to read the labels. If the first ingredient listed is “whole grain” it is likely that the product is predominantly whole grain. If “whole grain” is listed as the second ingredient on, let’s say, the bread you are buying, the bread may actually contain as little as 1% or as much as 49% whole.
Confusing? Yes, it can be.
When I take my whole grains (and btw, I do not eat wheat which is another blog post in the making), I know I don’t have to try and understand any labels. I get what I put into my mill, it’s that simple. That is not necessarily true for flour you buy at the store. Not only have we been taking essential parts of the grain out, but to make milling more effective, we started adding things.
Almost all white flour in the US is bleached with a toxic chlorine bleach called azodicarbonamide. Another common additive is fungal amylase (which slows down the growth of mold) and potassium bromate (aka brominated flour). Potassium bromate has been associated with cancer and kidney and nervous system disorders and is banned in many countries (but not the U.S). I am no expert on this topic, but I do trust the saying “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.” If you mill your grain at home, not only will you get the health benefits but since buying whole grains vs flour is cheaper, you will save money in the long run.
A little bit about grain mills: My grain mills all use stone as the grinding mechanism. I like stone over steel since the germ is not exposed to excessive temperatures (as it does happen with steel mills) and therefore remains relatively intact. And, because I only mill a small amount of grain at once, the fat from the germ is well distributed which also minimizes spoilage. In addition, stone-ground flour is usually coarser, therefore exposure to oxygen is less, and the nutrients remain in the flour for longer.
Genesis 41: 53-57 tells the story of Joseph storing the grain for seven years. Genesis 42:2 tells you why he was so smart: People came from all over to buy the grain. They actually sold livestock to purchase the grain. Verse 1-2: When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at each other? He continued, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and by some for us, so that we may live and not die. Jacob was worrying about dying even though he had other means of food.
It's important to realize that the nutrition is in the grain
and the grain comes to life when it is milled.
We are applying God’s principles of providing wheat berries that are ground into flour and then produced into bread for the schools and children we are affiliated with in Haiti.
Grinding the wheat berries and/or the local corn to make whole grain flour is the essential key to 100% live nutrition for the children in Haiti. We provide the bread oven, the wheat berries or local corn and the baking supplies necessary to bake the bread. We are also training and employing local bakers to facilitate the baking and distribution of the fresh baked bread. This is different than most organizations out there. Most are putting a band aid on the problem. We are not only bringing a solution to feeding children nutrition, but also providing a sustainable project that is empowering the Haitian people.
- James Cammilleri (Founder: Elevating Christian Ministries)