Meds & Food for Kids’ vision and work epitomizes the Sustainable Development Goal to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” “As such, partnership with the Alliance seems perfectly matched to enhance the work of both organizations,” states Chris Greene, CEO of Meds & Food for Kids.
In 1988, pediatrician Dr. Patricia B. Wolff visited Haiti on a family mission trip. For the next 15 years, Dr. Wolff returned to Haiti annually as a volunteer treating chronically malnourished children whose illness, if untreated, could lead to a tragic death.
At the time, the treatment for malnutrition required refrigeration, clean water, and inpatient therapy with only a 25% success rate. However, research was indicating a better treatment with better results. Dr. Wolff visited her Washington University colleague, Dr. Mark Manary in Malawi, who was pioneering a fortified peanut-based paste treatment. His work resulted in Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). RUTF, consisting of peanuts, powdered milk, oil, sugar, vitamins, and minerals, doesn’t require refrigeration, has a shelf life of 24 months, and is administered on an outpatient basis, enabling parents and caregivers to be agents in their children’s recovery.
In 2003 Dr. Wolff founded Meds & Food for Kids and hired a small team in Haiti to make RUTF, which she named Medika Mamba (Haitian Creole for “peanut butter medicine.”) Armed with a hand grinder for peanuts, Dr. Wolff and MFK’s first staff made Medika Mamba in the back room of a church and treated 10 children per month. The results were miraculous, and the treatment showed an 85% success rate.
Today, MFK has expanded to include treatment of moderate malnutrition and supplement treatments for pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as a fortified school snack. MFK continued to increase production capacity in Haiti and began working with Haitian smallholder farmers in 2006 to abate aflatoxin, a dangerous mycotoxin found in peanut crops, and to increase best practices for healthier and higher yields. MFK’s farmer training programs have resulted in a local supply network of peanuts that MFK purchases for use in RUTF production.
In 2012, MFK opened a state-of-the-art factory outside of Cap-Haitien, Haiti, which now has the capacity to produce enough RUTF to treat 320,000 children per year. As a result, in addition to supplying RUTF for Haitians, MFK also exports its products to 17 other countries, as a supplier to UNICEF Global.
MFK’s ongoing research in the fields of malnutrition and agriculture science has been facilitated by partnerships with universities in the US and Canada, and national and international grants.
MFK uses a four-part plan to part plan to save lives and give hope:
- Malnutrition Treatment – Since 2003, MFK has saved over 600,000 children’s lives.
- Job Creation / Capacity Building – MFK currently employs 88 women and men in its Cap-Haitien production facility, and its agriculture and nutrition programs.
- Agriculture Development – Since 2006, more than 2,600 farmers have graduated from MFK’s training program.
- Research & Development -Development of new products to prevent and treat malnutrition, including a school snack to supplement nutrition and improve educational outcomes for students, and testing of more than 65 peanut seed varieties for best yield and drought resistance.
This holistic approach addresses the root causes of poor nutrition through community economic development and building a local, self-sustaining network. Children are saved, parents are employed, and money stays in the local economy.