Empowering the Families

One of the greatest aspects of Plumpy’nut is that it empowers mothers and fathers to nurse their child back to health at home.  Before the introduction of Plumpy’nut, if a child was suffering from malnutrition, parents would have to travel miles to a therapeutic feeding center (TFC).  While TFCs provide essential, emergency care, they are often expensive to operate as they rely on quality infrastructure, staff, and extensive financial support.  Furthermore, the closest TFC may be a several-days journey, meaning that a mother or father will have to leave their other children and responsibilities at home for up to a month while they stay in a TFC with their malnourished child.  While TFCs are still necessary to provide treatment for children who experience malnutrition with complications, Plumpy’nut has shifted care from a TFC to home.

A mother feeding her child Plumpy'nut - UNICEF

Rather than using a TFC model, Plumpy’nut relies on a community-based therapeutic care (CTC) system.  CTC is a network of local health extension workers, either paid staff or volunteers, who visit rural households to identify cases of malnutrition.  If a case is detected, the child’s parents are encouraged to visit the closest outpatient medical facility where they can receive a supply of Plumpy’nut.  Depending on the severity of the child’s malnutrition, a mother or father can feed the child 1-2 packets a day at home.

CTC relies on community leaders to foster local support in each village because if a community embraces CTC, it will be better prepared to deal with future malnutrition crises.    Not only does CTC empower families and communities, it also has improved early detection of malnutrition.

Concern Worldwide, recipient of all Walk for Plumpy’nut proceeds, has been recognized as a world leader in implementation of CTCs.  For more information, check out this earlier post on Plumpy’nut Press or consider donating to Concern Worldwide!


DIY: World Improvement

Check out this interview on DIY World Improvement Radio Show about Food for Thought’s founding and the Walk for Plumpy’nut!  This new radio show, hosted by Cathy Carlozzi, features young people who are working to improve the world around them.  I was honored that Cathy wanted listeners to know more about Food for Thought’s work with Plumpy’nut!   DIY World Improvement Radio Show streams live at http://www.live365.com on Bloomfield College Radio Friday mornings from 11:30 a.m.  Thanks for listening!



Food for Thought members at the Walk for Plumpy'nut 2010!

Sustainable Food Systems

I must begin by apologizing for my delay in posting!  My studies and work with Food for Thought at Ithaca have been consuming more time than expected, however, better late than never I suppose!  This morning, I watched a lecture on the topic of “The African Food System and its Interaction with Human Health and Nutrition”  (links to online stream of lecture) presented at Cornell University.

Fred Noy/UN Photo

This lecture discussed how addressing sustainable food systems and food security must be reconceptualized.  The United Nations defines food security as existing “when all people at all times have physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life.”  Adequate nutrition is paramount to food security.  What’s important to remember about Plumpy’nut is that it provides children with short-term food relief.  It’s used in the most extreme of cases, and is vital to ensuring life-saving treatment for young children.  However, working toward the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and reducing childhood mortality will not be solved through Plumpy’nut alone.  Even though it may not be the complete and full solution, I don’t think this discredits its tremendous capabilities.  It’s important to realize that feeding a child Plumpy’nut is just the first step to achieving food security. This is what leads me to the Cornell lecture . . .

What I found most interesting about this lecture was the concept of “framing” the issue of food insecurity.  Many times, we rely on measuring caloric intake, hunger endpoints, or food security to determine the success of food systems.  However, if we define success strictly through these measurement techniques, we fail to take into account nutritional diversity and long-term impact.  Instead, in many cases these measurements have led to malnutrition, disease, or even obesity in countries once plagued by malnutrition. To really bring about change and improvement in hunger relief, this panel of lecturers emphasizes that we must integrate agriculture, food systems, and human health.

The Ithaca College chapter of Food for Thought has spent the majority of the year focusing on the Millennium Development Goals.  One overarching theme that has consumed our meeting discussions is the idea that the MDGs are not independent silos, as this lecture reinforces.  For example, one of our Ithaca College faculty guest lecturers discussed how food security and proper nutrition are integral to fighting HIV/AIDS.  Our members have made the connection that to even begin tackling the issue of achieving universal primary education (goal #2), we must also address improving maternal care (goal #5), eradicating extreme hunger and poverty (goal #1), and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases (goal #6).  This lecture further reinforced that in order to assure food security (goal #1), we must work toward ensuring environmental sustainability (goal #7).

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but learning about how these issues are integrated is a critical first step to addressing them.

Celebrate World Food Day!

In honor of World Food Day, why not spend a few minutes really educating yourself about the scope of the malnutrition crisis?  Check out Action Against Hunger’s Understanding Hunger page.  Or, take a look over Concern Worldwide’s pamphlet on world hunger.  Watch Doctors Without Borders “Starved for Attention” campaign videos and sign their petition today to rewrite the story of malnutrition.  Take action today!

In a world of plenty, ending hunger is within our grasp.  It is time to do what we have long failed to do…eliminate hunger from the face of the Earth.” – Kofi Annan

Accessing the Plumpy’nut Patent

On October 13, 2010, The French Institute of Research for Development (IRD) and Nutriset, a world leader in the fight against childhood malnutrition, made a revolutionary announcement that the patent for ready-to-use foods (RUTF), like Plumpy’nut, will be available online.  This announcement comes just in time for the celebration of World Food Day on October 16th.

Under this system, the patent for these lifesaving products is just a few clicks away! The ultimate goal of online accessibility to the patent is to encourage nutritional autonomy by fostering local RUTF production in countries where childhood malnutrition is a national crisis.

After completing the simple online form, patent beneficiaries will receive an automatically generated certificate.  This certificate will allow local producers of RUTF products to develop products similar to Plumpy’nut.  This way, they can create their own formulas and recipes suitable for their region’s needs, implement their own quality production system, and conduct their own branding and marketing promotions.  Access to the patent license is open to any country in which Nutriset and the IRD have filed their patents.

In return for access to the patent, the IRD, a public research institute, welcomes beneficiaries to contribute 1% of their turnover to be used for IRD research.  Nutriset seeks no financial compensation for the patent as it expects its research will be funded through the sale of its products.

Nutriset developed the range of Plumpy products, including Plumpy’nut, that since 1997, have been used to treat nearly 7 million children (see image below for more information).  In 2005, Nutriset launched the PlumpyField Network to encourage nutritional autonomy.  Just through this innovation, Nutriset and the PlumpyField Network already produce over 30% of the Plumpy’nut used to treat severe acute malnutrition!  One can only imagine the tremendous impact that online patent accessibility will have on the production of Plumpy’nut products!

For more information on this revolutionary step, read the full press release here.


The range of Nutriset products aimed at treating every level of malnutrition. Click image to enlarge.



4th Annual Walk for Plumpy’nut a Success!

On Saturday, October 9th, over 80 students and community members joined together in the fight against childhood malnutrition at Ithaca’s 1st Walk for Plumpy’nut hosted by Food for Thought. The walk raised over $1,500 and 100% of the proceeds will be used to feed critically malnourished children at Concern Worldwide’s feeding stations.

Food for Thought would like to thank everyone who planned, participated, volunteered, and donated to the Walk for Plumpy’nut for making it such a success. Food for Thought would also like to thank its sponsors including: Aztech DataSystems, The International Food Network, Patton Veterinary Hospital, EIBe Photography, Dr. Ragland Orthodontics, Gimme! Coffee, Lucienne’s Fine Foods, Moosewood Restaurant, Life’s So Sweet Chocolates, Sodexo Dining Services, and Loose Threads. Also, a very special thank you to WICB, Ithaca College’s student-run radio station, for turning the walk into a dance for Plumpy’nut!

Food for Thought is a club at Ithaca College that is dedicated to improving the lives of children around the world who are facing poverty, malnutrition, and lack of education.

For more information about Food for Thought, and the Walk for Plumpy’nut, please visit: http://www.icfoodforthought.webs.com

The walkers take-off!


Plumpy'nut Pride!


Our all-star volunteers and IC Food for Thought members!

Our volunteers provide some dancing entertainment!

Nonprofit Spotlight: Project Peanut Butter

Project Peanut Butter is a Malawi-based nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Mark Manary in 1999.  Since its founding, Project Peanut Butter has provided home-based malnutrition therapeutic care to hundreds of thousands of children in Malawi.  By providing ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), which in Malawi is referred to as Chiponde, at health clinics, Project Peanut Butter continues to be one of the frontrunners in treating acute childhood malnutrition.  Project Peanut Butter has expanded their relief efforts to Sierra Leone.  After reading about this organization below, consider donating to their RUTF production in Sierra Leone.

Can you explain why Project Peanut Butter adopted the home-based therapy program to treat malnutrition?  How does this program work?

Project Peanut Butter’s home-based therapy program is an answer to inpatient programs for malnourished children in Malawi that found poor recovery rates. There are many benefits to home-based therapy: children who do not need to be hospitalized can be treated at home, mothers who are subsistence farmers spend less time in hospitals while their child is being treated, and children treated outside of the hospital are not at risk to get nosocomial infections (infections spread from other patients inside the hospital). The recovery rate for severely malnourished children in home-based therapy is about 90%.

The program works by enrolling children who are severely malnourished as characterized by their weight and height. In general, children who look sick or especially thin are referred by a village health worker to a malnutrition clinic, the children are screened on a set of enrollment criteria, and if they are malnourished, they begin a 6- or 8-week program (on average) for nutritional rehabilitation.

Is Chiponde the same thing as Plumpy’nut?  If there are any differences, can you explain them?

“Chiponde” is the local name for the same, peanut butter-based therapeutic food, literally meaning “paste” or “peanut butter” in Chichewa, the language spoken by Malawians. Scientifically, we refer to Chiponde or Plumpy’nut as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). There are other names for RUTF: in Sierra Leone the product is colloquially referred to as “kakatuwa,” which means something that is especially effective or potent.

What are the benefits of using Chiponde at Project Peanut Butter’s nutrition centers?

Chiponde, or RUTF is a high-energy, high-protein therapeutic food with a full set of vitamins and minerals. Chiponde is peanut butter-based and does not spoil, does not require cooking or processing, and does not need to be refrigerated. Most children eat chiponde straight from a jar or foil envelope or are fed by their mothers.

In July of 2007, several groups in the United Nations including the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) published a joint statement establishing home-based therapy with RUTF as the best way to treat children with severe malnutrition who do not need to be hospitalized.

Following a diagnosis of severe malnutrition, what treatment does the child undergo at Project Peanut Butter clinics and sites?

Children are given an amount of RUTF chiponde that is proportional to their weight, and the child’s mother is told to bring the child back in two weeks for observation of the child’s progress. The treatment is simple and takes only minimal intervention; we want the program to be as easy and accessible to children as possible.

How does Project Peanut Butter integrate itself with the local communities where Chiponde is produced?

Project Peanut Butter is a thoroughly local program; all of the malnutrition clinics operated by PPB are assisted by village health workers or “Health Surveillance Assistants” (HSAs) who are government employees. Additionally, PPB partners with the Malawian government hospitals who have their own malnutrition clinics all over Southern Malawi, and all of the Chiponde is produced locally in Blantyre, Malawi by an all-Malawian staff with Malawian ingredients.

Does Project Peanut Butter use any other Plumpy products (Supplementary’Plumpy, Plumpy’doz, Nutributter, Plumpy’soy)?

Project Peanut Butter, which also does extensive research about malnutrition and related diseases, is currently using Supplementary’Plumpy (a.k.a. “Supply”) in a study about moderate malnutrition.  Some of these products produced by Nutriset were researched by our staff.

Can you explain Project Peanut Butter’s collaboration with Nutriset and Andre Briend?

The product RUTF and the home-based therapy program are both a result of the work from three entities: researcher Andre Briend who proposed the product, physician Dr. Mark Manary (PPB’s director) who field tested RUTF in Malawi, and the first large-scale producer of RUTF, Nutriset in the South of France.

All three parties are extensively involved today in the fight against childhood malnutrition through research, international aid work, and RUTF production.

How many children has Project Peanut Butter treated at its clinics and sites?  How successful has Chiponde been in Project Peanut Butter’s work to fight childhood malnutrition?

In 2009, the PPB factory in Malawi produced about 650 metric tons of Plumpy’nut, which is enough to treat between 40,000 and 45,000 severely malnourished children. In 2010, Project Peanut Butter will produce between 800 and 1,000 metric tons of Plumpy’nut, which is enough to treat somewhere between 50,000 and 65,000 severely malnourished children.

Additionally, the PPB factory in Freetown, Sierra Leone started industrial-scale production in April 2009 and has produced food for and helped to treat several thousand children.

What’s next for Project Peanut Butter?

PPB will continue its full-time work with a national program for malnourished children in Malawi. Additionally, the production facility in Sierra Leone will expand its capacity this year, and finally an investigation is being made by PPB employees to start a new project in the country of Mali.

This summer we also began a new chapter for PPB, supporting the work of the Little Sisters of Charity and the Sons of Divine Providence in Payatas, Phillipines in treating malnutrition among slum dwellers with tuberculosis. This cooperative venture combines medicinal and nutritonal care for these patients. We are open to continuing this relationship.

Are there any stories about specific children who were saved by Chiponde that you would like to share?

There are many stories about the hard work and dedication of the people we work with in Malawi in Sierra Leone, and at least one story for every child that we treat. All of the stories point to the same goal of helping children who are malnourished who would otherwise not be helped.

What should readers do if they would like to donate to Project Peanut Butter?

They can mail a check or money order to the PPB headquarters at:

Project Peanut Butter

7435 Flora Avenue

Maplewood, MO 63143

Or donate online at www.projectpeanutbutter.org

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