Multi-Purpose Food (MPF) is a low-cost high-protein soy product developed by a Cal Tech biochemist, Henry Borsook, at the behest of a kind-hearted Los Angeles restaurateur who sought to feed impoverished Angelenos during the shortage years of World War II. General Mills acquired the product in 1958, and under the direction of Fred Hafner, modified and improved it. It has since been used all over the world in areas of poverty, famine and natural disaster.


Summary of A tribute to Dr. Henry Borsook:
An account of a man, a product, and a project (1977)

by Fred Hafner

In 1942 (during World War II) when Clifford Clinton needed help in developing a nutritious food from non-rationed materials to feed non-paying “customers” in his cafeteria on Olive Street in downtown Los Angeles, he contacted Dr. Henry Borsook, a biochemist at Cal-Tech. Mr. Clinton offered Dr. Borsook a monetary grant if he would undertake the project; Dr. Borsook accepted. Borsook used partially defatted soy grits or soy flour plus essential vitamins and minerals as the basic formula, then added salt, spices, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. The resulting product when mixed with water and heated in an oven formed a high protein, nutritious and tasty mush. This product was served from the steam table of the Clifton Cafeteria to those who had no money but were hungry and deserving of care. The product was well received by the destitute vagrants who looked to Mr. Clinton for a “hand out”; the developmental work of Dr. Borsook had met the need of the emergency created by the war.

Mr. Clinton was able to contract with Gentry, Inc. of Oxnard, California, to manufacture the product; Gentry was selected because they had available the spices needed for the product, as well as the blending facilities.

In 1946 when World War II came to an end the Meals for Millions (MFM) Foundation was born and the Borsook formula, renamed MPF, became the key component of a program to fight hunger throughout the world. Among the many fine people associated with the Foundation were Dr. Borsook, Clifford Clinton, Edmond Clinton, Florence Rose, Ernest Chamberlain, Hazel Hopkins, Bea Azedo, Reg Helfferich, Elsie Russell, Lloyd Bellisime, Gerlad Miller, Col. “Sandy” Saunders, Larry Lyvman, Neal O’Donnell, Mark Sterner, Don Ebright and Peter Davies to name a few.

In 1958 General Mills relieved Gentry as the manufacturer of MPF. Eventually partially defatted soy grits were replaced by fully defatted soy grits, giving the product a higher protein content. And the following essential vitamins were added to the formula: Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B-6, and vitamin 12. [In 1959, Fred himself traveled to India to introduce General Mills' version of MPF.]

Dr. Albert Schweitzer [who died in 1965] used MPF extensively at his hospital in Lambarene, Gabon. Dr. Tom Dooley used MPF in his MEDICO hospital in Laos. 80,000 lb of MPF were used in the Biafran war in Nigeria. During the prisoner exchange with Cuba’s Castro in the mid-1960s, over 800,000 lb of MPF were shipped to Cuba and converted into MPF sausage. After earthquakes in Morocco, Turkey, and Central and South America, MPF was donated in time to relieve severe cases of protein shortage. In 1960 it was flown to needy orphanages in Morocco.




Third World example:
MPF in Ceylon/Sri Lanka

The Meals for Millions Foundation was founded in California in 1946 to popularize a low-cost, highly nutritious soy-based protein supplement or cereal-soy blend called Multi-Purpose Food (MPF) to low-income areas (see Chapter 71) In July 1955 the Foundation's Executive Director, Miss Florence Rose, visited Sri Lanka briefly and founded the Meals for Millions Committee under the aegis of the Ceylon Red Cross. The first meeting was organized by Mr. K. Somasundaram, former director of the Ceylon Red Cross Society, and Dr. J.H.F. Jayasuriya. After her return to the USA, Rose began shipping MPF to key contacts in Sri Lanka (Jayasena 1964).

In 1957 the most comprehensive study of Sri Lanka's food problems and nutritional needs was published in a joint FAO-WHO report, written by Clements and Bocobo. It showed serious protein and calorie deficiencies in the population. This report created a new awareness of the need for low-cost sources of protein and calories, of the type that Meals for Millions was advocating.

In the late 1950s a young man named Hewage Jayasena was appointed to the office of Joint Secretary of the National Development Enquiry Committee of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress. He also came to serve as the Secretary of the Health Enquiry Committee, which consisted of volunteer physicians. In this capacity, in about 1958-59, he first heard of and took a strong interest in the Meals for Millions concept and MPF. During the early 1960s he began active correspondence with MFM in America to popularize their ideas in Sri Lanka. The MFM ideas were very appealing to Buddhists who believe that one should not kill animals for food or other purposes.

In the early 1960s FAO started a Freedom From Hunger campaign in Sri Lanka. It's Bulletin began to challenge the orthodox teachings of Western nutritionists that animal proteins were necessary for proper nutrition. A lengthy article published in September 1963 cited the research of Dr. Henry Borsook and the Meals for Millions Foundation, which showed that one need not consume any animal proteins to be healthy. Using information supplied by Jayasena, it then went on to discuss MPF, its growing worldwide popularity (especially in India), and the possibilities of producing MPF in Sri Lanka using local grains and legumes. In 1962-64 Jayasena corresponded with Mr. Fred H. Hafner of General Mills in Minneapolis, enquiring about their investing in a MFM plant in Sri Lanka. However since in 1962 the Sri Lankan government had expropriated British and US oil companies, the climate was not considered favorable for investment. But General Mills showed interest in exporting their MPF to Sri Lanka or serving as technical advisors on a plant; Hafner advised Jayasena as to how he might proceed to make contacts.