MANA Nutrition Set Out to Save the 16 Million Children Suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. Here’s What It Took.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

By Kendall Fisher, executive producer at Grow Wire

Approximately 16 million children under the age of five are affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) across the globe. These children are nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children, and in fact, 35% of deaths among children under five are caused, directly or indirectly, by SAM.

It’s the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition. Children with SAM are vastly underweight, and their muscles deteriorate severely. They may also suffer from nutritional oedema, a state in which their feet, face and limbs become swollen. Sometimes these children have become so malnourished, they’re no longer hungry, leading to worsening symptoms and death.

The majority of these cases occur in underdeveloped countries plagued by chronic poverty with limited access to nutritional food. Mark Moore saw the absolute need to provide that access. 

Moore spent a decade living in Uganda where he witnessed malnutrition first-hand. Upon returning to the United States, he took up a role in the U.S. government with a focus on food aid and realized there was only one company—an organization based out of France—making ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) that could help minimize the number of children suffering from SAM. 

The RUTF solution is a simple concept: composed of peanut butter, milk and vitamins, it delivers proper nutrients to children suffering from SAM and, essentially, brings them back to life. Unfortunately, the French company producing RUTF was in the business of making a large profit from this dire need, importing peanuts from the U.S. to do so.

That’s when Moore decided we could and had to do better.

Moore came together with David Todd Harmon and co-founded the nonprofit MANA Nutrition in 2008. They weren’t in it to make money. They weren’t in it for praising or rounds-of-applause. They founded MANA with one hope, one goal and one mission: To save our children.

However, the road to getting the organization on its feet in order to fulfill such an important task was anything but easy.

When looking to partner with major peanut butter companies to make RUTF, Moore’s idea was rejected time after time as manufacturers feared bringing milk into their factories. The domino effect was rejections from investors, too, preventing Moore from getting the necessary funding to create RUTF on his own. 

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Moore finally found a solution to that obstacle with a peanut butter manufacturer out of Fitzgerald, Georgia, who was willing to help. And, yet, that was far from the end of the difficult road. Moore and Harmon founded MANA in the midst of the recession, so by the time their RUTF production kicked off, the economy plummeted, sending the price for peanuts and milk skyrocketing. MANA was left with an uneasy board and a product that cost twice as much as competitors.


But Moore believed in MANA’s mission. He believed in helping our world’s children, and just as any good parent does while raising a child, he simply refused to give up. 

Watch this three-part series to find out how Moore defeated the odds and led MANA Nutrition to a place where it could help save three million children’s lives.