A malnutrition-oriented project started by a Vanderbilt University professor and the founder of the Middle Tennessee-based Shalom Foundation has reached a milestone with the opening of a Central American supplementary food production facility.
According to a VU release, Ted Fischer (pictured), professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Latin American Studies, teamed with multiple Vanderbilt students over a five-year period on the project. Relatedly, Shalom head Steve Moore, a former Country Music Association CEO, worked with Fischer to found NutriPlus, a social enterprise effort that produces the supplement, Mani+.
The supplement (a fortified nut paste that provides calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals essential to brain development in babies and toddlers) is used to specifically address the nutritional deficiencies seen in Central American children. It is the first ready-to-use supplementary Food (RUSF) to be both locally produced and locally sourced in Guatemala City, Guatemala, creating local jobs and supporting local farmers.
The new facility opened on Sept. 23 and will eventually mass produce Mani+. Eventually, Fischer and Moore hope to produce 25 tons of Mani+ a month, reaching 25,000 children.
To recognize the opening of the facility, an event was held recently at the Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América y Panamá (INCAP). Senior health officials from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic attended, as well as prominent business and NGO leaders and representatives from the World Food Program.
Shalom Foundation’s Guatemala City pediatric clinic has strong ties to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The clinic houses the Vanderbilt Guatemala Research Station.
Regarding Mani+, Vanderbilt students helped develop financial and quality control models, an aflotoxin eradication plan for partner peanut farmers, and educational materials and packaging. They also conducted field research on peanut cultivation and Mani+ usage in the home. The paste itself was developed in partnership with food scientists at INCAP, which also donated the Mani+ production facility.
A 40-year longitudinal study by INCAP finds that the costs of childhood malnutrition are high and lasting.
“There’s a huge economic impact to malnutrition,” Fischer said in the release. “Kids don’t do as well in school, and we know from this data that they earn 40 percent less as adults than peers who were well-nourished. So to put it into a dollar figure, in Guatemala, that’s $300 million a year that malnutrition is costing this country.”
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