She sits alone in the corner of a Honduras school that she attends. Her eyes are hollowed. Her face is pale. And even with the sun shining on her through a window, she remains cold and weak. This girl is lucky if she gets to eat one meal a day.
Gauging from her physical stature, many think she is eight years old – few know that she is actually a young teenager. She, among others in the area, suffers from malnutrition. For most people, witnessing these conditions can be a heart-wrenching experience. For the employees of Breedlove, this type of experience was a wake-up call.
After visiting Honduras years ago, the sight of the withered young teenager left a lasting impression. Even worse, there are millions more just like her.
A fortified peanut paste, VitaNUT is a product recently developed to feed the hungry because it is a convenient food source. The primary purpose for VitaNUT is to provide a product that will help nutrient-deficient populations recover.
Elbia Galo, nutritional expert and the Latin American liaison for Breedlove, selected the ingredients and fortifications for the VitaNUT formula. Three years ago, Galo approached Michael Ballou, Ph.D., to collaborate on testing the formula that was high in minerals, nutrients, protein and effectiveness. Ballou is an assistant professor in nutrition and immunology at Texas Tech University, with expertise important for the intended goal of VitaNUT. He tested the digestibility and nutritional benefits of Galo’s original VitaNUT formula. While researching the best possible formula, Galo and Ballou had to keep several factors in mind.
“We wanted to formulate a product that would supplement a wide variety of regional diets and support growth and development in a cost-effective manner,” Ballou said.
Compared to other foreign-aid products, VitaNUT is unique because of its makeup.
“What makes VitaNUT special is that it’s thought of as a functional product,” Galo said. “The mix of ingredients provides added benefits to nutrients that are already naturally present.”
Additionally, the ready-to-use, tubular packaging is easy to transport and allows for efficient distribution to masses of hungry people.
With the new product developed, Breedlove began planning which country was best for testing VitaNUT. David Fish, Breedlove director for business development, said the Philippines will be the starting point for testing VitaNUT in a human population.The Philippines have worked with feeding programs before, and the country has stable government and educational systems.
Once Breedlove confirmed the testing of VitaNUT in the Philippines, all of the shipping and production logistics came into play. After every detail had been planned out, VitaNUT was shipped to the Philippines where the product will be implemented into the feeding program of the designated location.
About two or three months following the VitaNUT shipment, members of Breedlove staff who are involved with the VitaNUT project, will travel to the Philippines to assess how the tested population is recovering.
An exceptional difference with VitaNUT compared to other nutritional products, is the time frame of which the product will be tested in the Philippines. Fish said a normal nutritional testing period is 90 days and will feed a population of 1,000 to 1,200 people.
The VitaNUT trial will last for nine months and feed roughly 8,000 to 10,000 women and children.
Due to the longer trial period, data sets will be larger, and Breedlove will be able to better identify how the product is impacting people’s
While Breedlove is focusing on children suffering from malnutrition, they are also addressing a demographic often overlooked.
Pregnant and lactating women are not usually the first group that comes to mind when combating malnutrition, but employees of Breedlove are reaching out to those who suffer malnourishment just as severely.
“Breedlove has always been looking to see where we can fill in the cracks and where we can caulk the places that people have fallen through,” Fish said.
Fish and others at Breedlove said that enhancing a mother’s health will help prevent children from being born with the burden
Children from the ages of six months to eight months are most susceptible to deficient brain development caused by malnutrition, Fish said.
“If enough nutrients aren’t consumed, then a person will be stunted and never be able to break out of the cycle of poverty,” he added.
After testing finishes up in the Philippines, Breedlove will work on integrating more of the product into other countries.
Even though VitaNUT has not been tested yet, Colombia, Mexico and several Latin American countries have also expressed interest in using VitaNUT in their already established feeding programs. Additionally, Breedlove hopes to partner with corporations that can provide resources on a larger scale, such as the United States Department of Agriculture and United States Agency for International Development.
Fish said he believes VitaNUT is a product capable of making a change in countries who struggle with hunger.
“You feel like you’re maybe a drop in the bucket, but it’s not nearly enough,” Fish said.
Fish sees fighting hunger as a project to always have a place in the world.
“In the long run, it’s not just a matter of helping people,” Fish said. “It’s the matter of helping entire countries, villages, or districts be better equipped, prepared and educated so that they can be more productive and competitive in the world economy.”
Despite challenges that lay ahead, Breedlove will continue to aid hungry people around the world, just like the girl in Honduras. Perhaps one day, everyone can be fortunate enough to eat three meals a day. We can hold on to the hope that many more hearts will give food from the soul.