Social Innovation: Peanut Butter at Its Best

Have you heard of Project Peanut Butter? Before you answer, it’s not something you spread on toast! It’s a revolutionary social innovation initiative founded by Dr. Mark Manary of Washington University School of Medicine more than a decade ago. It has been called the most effective method to treat malnourished children around the world and has helped thousands of children. The program distributes peanut-based, vitamin enriched nutritional packets called Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs) through clinics. Now, with funding from The Hershey Company, the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery, Project Peanut Butter will make and distribute vitamin-enriched nutritional packets to impoverished children in rural Ghana.

For many years, Hershey has supported education and community development programs in rural Ghana, which is a leading cocoa producing nation. Hershey will fund the construction of a Project Peanut Butter factory in the country to produce the much needed RUTFs and then this social innovation program will distribute the RUTFs to relief agencies, who provide the product to malnourished children in Ghana at no cost to them or their families. Children in rural Ghana will receive nutrients to increase their strength, foster growth and reduce their vulnerability to diseases. Childhood malnutrition levels in sub-Sahara Africa, an area that includes Ghana, are the highest in the world. The Project states through its international efforts that, "we can save 2 million children by 2015."

Today, Project Peanut Butter operates in Malawi, Sierra Leone and Mali. Dr. Manary, says, “Accelerating the production and distribution of nutrient-rich food is critical to improving the lives of at-risk rural children and I am thrilled to partner with Hershey to bring this life-saving program to the rural villages of Ghana, where poverty causes undernourishment among children.”

Ghana is also one of the top ten peanut producing countries in the world. Project Peanut Butter’s local partners will source all peanuts within Ghana, providing thousands of small-holder Ghanaian peanut farmers with a new market for their crops. Hershey will assist this social innovation project’s team through the company’s expertise in sourcing and processing peanuts. Michele Buck, Hershey’s Senior Vice President, Chief Growth Officer  says, “Our experience in peanut processing and our commitment to improving communities in West Africa, makes Project Peanut Butter an exciting project for us. We are dedicated to helping reduce childhood malnutrition.”

Though Ghana has one of the strongest emerging economies in Africa, food insecurity persists in rural areas due to unstable production, insufficient purchasing power and bad roads. Malnutrition is worse in children under five years, particularly in infants after the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to complementary feeding. While the number of acres for Ghana peanuts has significantly increased in recent years, production is limited by current growing practices. The Project Peanut Butter program in Ghana will change this, helping to improve the peanut farming sector by providing farmers with access to higher quality inputs, better planting and harvest techniques; making a real difference all round.

Photo Credit: Project Peanut Butter Website

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