What is MANA?
MANA is our version of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), designed to treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). Once packaged and delivered, MANA is ready for consumption — our #1 priority is to get our RUTF off of the factory shelves and into the hands of starving children.
MANA is the first product of many that we hope to roll out to combat malnutrition here at MANA Nutrition.
But what exactly is RUTF?
RUTF is peanut butter “amplified,” – it is loosely defined as a fortified peanut butter paste rich in vitamins and energy contained in a package that looks like an oversized ketchup packet. RUTF has been revolutionary in treating severe acute malnutrition because it allows SAM to be treated in the community, does not require water, and does not spoil.
What is severe acute malnutrition (SAM)?
Technically, SAM is a condition that affects children from the ages of 6 to 59 months that have an extremely low weight for height measure, visible severe wasting and/or the presence of edema. But, for our purposes, it is more helpful to think of it as a child, who is so malnourished that he or she is literally on the brink of death. 20 million children are currently estimated to suffer from SAM, and most are in south Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. All of this may seem very discouraging, but the good news is that SAM is not only preventable but also treatable. And that is where MANA comes in.
How long does a child need to eat MANA?
Typically, a child needs to eat 10-15kg of RUTF over a period of six to eight weeks. That’s three packets of MANA per day. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98% of children treated with RUTF were well-nourished after six months and 96% were well-nourished after a year.
The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are crucial and can determine that child’s full growth prospects. That is why it is critical that we get MANA to starving children today.
Can you feed MANA RUTF to anyone who is hungry?
MANA RUTF is not a product designed to meet all hunger. MANA RUTF is a product designed to treat the most serious form of hunger—severe acute malnutrition, and RUTF has an impeccable track record for correcting this specific condition. Dr. Mark Manary says regarding use of RUTF: “Children with SAM rarely relapse, because they are fed to the MAM criteria. Our American Journal of Clinical Nutrition paper found that 98% were well-nourished after 6 months and 96% were well-nourished after 1 year.”
At MANA Nutrition, we are also in the process of rolling out more products to combat other forms of malnutrition.
Did MANA invent RUTF? Are there other suppliers? How is MANA different?
No, we did not invent it. A researcher named Andre Briend working with MSF labs came up with the idea of pouring existing F-100 powdered milk formula into peanut butter to stabilize it. Years before that, Dr. Michael Golden lead a team at MSF to develop F-100, a special super-milk formula that was amazingly effective at curing and treating malnutrition. Golden promptly offered this “invention” to the world as a public good and a few places started making it as such.
F-100, however, had its downsides: mixing powdered milk in a developing world setting requires good, clean water, it offers a very short shelf life once mixed and it’s often a challenge for a mother to mix in proportion to a child’s age and weight. Later, Andre Briend came up with the idea of stabilizing this super-milk formula in a paste substance. The very first clinical trial that put RUTF on the “map” was conducted by Dr. Mark Manary in Malawi. There is a joint statement about the efficacy of RUTF put out by the World Health Organization and the references in that statement point to the work of Dr. Mark Manary and Dr. Steve Collins as key innovators and pioneers. In addition to that, a French company called Nutriset took on the task of making RUTF and now makes a version called “Plumpy’Nut”. So it took a team of great humanitarians, scientists and entrepreneurs to think it up, produce it and prove that it actually worked on malnourished children.
As with any good idea, it spread! Now there are as many as a dozen producers of RUTF of various sizes around the world. MANA’s headquarters and main production facility are both in the United States, which allows us to refine our technology to maximize effectiveness before assisting or opening production facilities in developing countries. Our headquarters are in North Carolina, and our factory is in Georgia. We are actively working on plans to partner with others to launch factories in developing countries using the expertise gained in our primary “mother ship” in the USA. We also acknowledge the fact that while RUTF is a proven lifesaver, it is not the solution to all world hunger. That is why we do not limit ourselves to helping through our products. We also spread awareness of malnutrition through campaigns and through digital forums like Facebook and Twitter.
Does MANA think that making RUTF and shipping from the USA is best?
No, we don’t. We think Western countries have a role to play and we think that local suppliers should and must have an increasingly large role to play as well. Ideally, local people would always solve local problems and that is why MANA is actively supporting groups like Project Peanut Butter who are doing the difficult and long term development work of making RUTF in local settings. These companies and communities not only have the pride of solving their own problems and feeding their own people, but they also grow local economies by creating jobs, not only in the factory but throughout the supply chain.
However, the fact remains that there are many places around the globe where a local or even regional supply of RUTF is a long way from reality. A supplier in Africa will not use African milk since milk drying facilities on the continent are nearly non-existent. Micronutrient blends and powders are sourced in Europe, and packaging largely in China. Even peanuts are hard to find in Africa due to high Aflatoxin levels. So while none of these challenges should cause us to give up on local production, they all make it difficult and expensive, even if labor and shipping costs are much lower. In the meantime, UNICEF and others have “surge” needs from disasters, drought, war and famine that demand large scale production and shipping of RUTF to save lives. Make no mistake, in the end, if MANA needs to close its doors because local production of RUTF has rendered our Western production unnecessary, we will be among the happiest people in the world…and we’ll be creative and do something world-changing with our company and factory. Sadly, we are afraid it may be a while before global malnutrition is solved and RUTF supplies are readily available, so we remain determined to make as big of a contribution as we can.
Is MANA Nutrition a non-profit?
MANA is structured as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. As such our full financial information is available here on this site for public scrutiny. Our non-profit status allows MANA to act as a forum for businesses, trade associations, and non-profits to join forces to help save children from severe acute malnutrition. MANA, however, is proud to be a non-profit run on business principles. The revenue we generate in excess of expenses is re-invested in things like new equipment and additional personnel, which allow us to produce more MANA and to save the lives of more children.
As a non-profit we don’t have shareholders who hold our feet to the fire, but we do have a board that pushes us to excellence, motivated by the incredible joy that comes in saving the kids we serve. We don’t think profit is bad. In fact, we know it is necessary because it allows us to invest in more equipment and personnel so that we can increase our production capacities and save more starving children. Not everyone needs to operate like us, but it works for us and, more importantly, we think it works for the children who need our products to survive. Since our mission and values can be successfully accomplished as a non-profit entity, we structured our company as such. Thus, we are the MANA Village, a community that just happens to be a company.
How does MANA reach children in need?
After production, MANA Nutrition ships its product to its partners (organizations like UNICEF and USAID, with wide distribution networks and established reputations in our target countries) to make sure that MANA ends up in the right hands. MANA’s partners then coordinate with local organizations (governments or NGOs working on the ground) to get MANA into the hands of starving children. In some cases, MANA is able to secure partners (most of whom approach us) and we work with them to get the life-saving supply of RUTF to children in need through the programmatic efforts of those partners.
Where does MANA Nutrition work?
Currently, MANA RUTF product is serving children in 17 different countries around the globe.
How can I help?
MANA Nutrition welcomes all donations, and, as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, all donations are tax deductible. Here, you can choose to make a one-time donation to the MANA through PayPal or by writing and mailing a check to our office in North Carolina. If you choose, you can also arrange to make a monthly donation.
If you are interested in buying MANA for your organization, please contact us for pricing and order placement.
At MANA Nutrition, we also recognize the power of ideas in our fight to save children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. We welcome yours and hope you will contact us.