Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is a huge problem in the developing world. In fact, it is the number one killer of children under five years of age. Almost 20 children suffer from it around the world. It kills 3.5 million children every year, which is more than HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. The British non-profit Action Against Hunger calls SAM a “devastating public health problem of epidemic proportions.” The median under-five case fatality rate for SAM ranges from 30 to 50 percent, but can be “reduced substantially when physiological and metabolic changes are taken into account,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Enter a non-profit organization called PB+J Foods, Inc, which has a rather simple solution to combat SAM.
PB+J began when five people from Orange County came together in March 2012 to fight SAM in developing countries. Programs by PB+J Foods provide fortified foods for children who suffer from SAM, plus medical treatment and health education. The non-profit created a type of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) that is easy for a child as young as six months old to digest: peanut butter. The particular type of peanut butter is a fortified one that has high calories and vitamins/minerals added. Peanuts themselves are high in zinc and protein, which support the immune system. Since it is a non-perishable item it can be stored outside of the refrigerator without spoiling and no cooking is required.
PB+J stands for Peanut Butter + Jesus. The Christian faith of the founders forms the basis for why they believe people in need should be helped by those who have more. Or as the organization proclaims on its website, “The efforts of PB+J would display Christ’s compassion to all welcoming people of all faiths and walks.” In other words, the non-profit organization brings the love of Christ to children who are on the verge of death.
The first PB+J program started at Nkhoma Hospital in Malawi in 2012 with a production facility in the hospital. It expanded from about 600 square feet in 2012 to almost 1,600 square feet. The hospital has given the fortified peanut butter produced on site to over 1,500 children ages six months to five years, with average weight increases of two kilograms in an average of a two-week period. The hospital has also given to adult patients recovering from surgery, which reduces their recovery time. The production average is almost 140 bottles a day, which equals serving almost 133 children a month, and over 1,500 a year. Seven Malawians were hired to run the plant. PB+J anticipates that by the end of 2014, the Nkhoma Hospital program will operate at a profit, and employment will be increased, which helps the local economy.
PB+J also started Co-op Farmer Programs, which range from 800 to 1,000 farmers per program. The participating farmers are mainly single mothers. The program helps farmers buy seeds for a peanut crop, teaches them how to grow peanuts and secures on an international buyer to buy their peanut crops. That creates a cash crop for local populations.
Photo: PB+J Foods