Georgia-grown peanuts fighting child hunger
SAVANNAH, Ga., Dec. 19, 2023 – The humble peanut might not seem the stuff of miracles, but it plays a key role in producing a shelf-stable food for severely malnourished children that is making a world of difference in their long-term health.
From its processing and packing plant in the heart of Georgia peanut country, Mana Nutrition makes a peanut butter-based product, fortified with protein and vitamins, called Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF).
“It’s like if you ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk and a vitamin, but it requires no refrigeration and you can carry it in your pocket,” said Mark Moore, Mana CEO. “We chose to locate in Georgia because of the peanuts. We’re essentially right in the middle of a peanut field there in Fitzgerald.”
The non-profit organization packages the paste in containers similar to ketchup packets, but about the size of a cell phone.
“It will save the life of a malnourished child, and do it quickly,” said Joe Boddiford, chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission. “You can provide that product to a child and turn their life around in six weeks. We are proud to be part of that mission.”
Moore said RUTF is revolutionary for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition because it allows children to receive treatment in their communities, does not require water or cooking, and its two-year shelf life means it does not spoil before use. Getting the food packets to remote communities in Africa, for instance, means lives saved.
“Children born to hunger, living as hungry kids, are never able to hit a baseline of the good nutrition needed for healthy growth and development,” he said. “Severe acute malnutrition, or SAM, causes more child deaths each year than AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria combined – because once a child spirals into severe malnutrition, it only takes two weeks to kill a child.”
RUTF is a meal replacement. Children aged six months to two years eat three packets a day, generally for about six weeks, during which time there are health checkups.
“If you can get them back to normal, as long as their diet is decent after that, they won’t die of malnutrition,” Moore said.
Mana Nutrition’s sales to three entities, USAID, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, accounted for nearly $50 million of the peanut-based product last year.
About 1,000 boxes of RUTF packets are loaded into each shipping container that Mana exports via Georgia Ports Authority.
“We shipped over 1000 containers last year,” Moore said. “The Port of Savannah is the most efficient and with our new warehouse should be approaching the largest port for the export for RUTF in the world.”
GPA Board Chairman Kent Fountain said the Authority is proud to facilitate Mana’s mission.
“At Georgia Ports, we pride ourselves on helping our customers reach important foreign markets with speed and efficiency every day,” Fountain said. “In this case, especially, the Port of Savannah’s direct connection to global ports aids the reliable delivery of food to those in dire need.”
Mana Nutrition recently started operating out of a 315,000 square-foot warehouse with 35,000 pallet positions in Pooler, Ga., just minutes from Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City Terminal.
“If it is not the biggest food aid warehouse in the world, it is among the largest,” Moore said. At full capacity, the warehouse will create at least 50 jobs, covering not only warehousing but also peanut roasting, and production of RUTF.
Mana RUTF is the first of several products the company has rolled out to serve malnourished children. Another is Ready-to-use Supplemental Food, or RUSF, designed for moderately malnourished children. Mana also makes a line of supplements to prevent malnutrition in both mothers and children, and a product called Humanitarian Supply Ration (HSR). HSR is a peanut paste fortified with micronutrients that boasts twice the protein of a normal peanut butter and is designed to be helpful in general emergency situations where cooking or fresh water is temporarily interrupted.
About Georgia Ports:
Georgia’s ports and inland terminals support more than 561,000 jobs throughout the state annually, and contribute $33 billion in income, $140 billion in revenue and $3.8 billion in state and local taxes to Georgia’s economy. GPA anticipates investing $4.5 billion in the next ten years as part of its port master plan to expand cargo handling capabilities to support future supply chain requirements. As part of GPA’s community engagement efforts, $6 million will be donated to communities located near the Port of Savannah to support a multi-year, local workforce housing initiative. CNBC ranked Georgia #1 in the U.S. for infrastructure in America’s Top States for Business in 2023. Area Development – a site selection news outlet for the U.S., has ranked Georgia as the Top State to Do Business for ten consecutive years. For further information, visit gaports.com or contact Chief Communications Officer Tom Boyd at [email protected] or call (912) 964-3855.