With funding from The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY), Project Peanut Butter announced today that it will make and distribute vitamin-enriched nutritional packets to impoverished children in rural Ghana.
“We are honored to be working with Dr. Manary and his dedicated team in reducing childhood malnutrition.”
Through Project Peanut Butter, 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.
"Accelerating the production and distribution of nutrient-rich food is critical to improving the lives of at-risk rural children," said Dr. Mark Manary, founder of Project Peanut Butter, a pediatrician and a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. "I am thrilled to partner with Hershey to bring this life-saving program to the rural villages of Ghana, where poverty causes malnourishment among children."
For many years, Hershey has supported education and community development programs in rural Ghana, which is a leading cocoa producing country. Hershey will fund the construction of a Project Peanut Butter factory in Ghana to produce the peanut-based Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTFs). Project Peanut Butter will distribute the RUTFs to relief agencies, who provide the product to malnourished children in Ghana at no cost to them or their families.
More than a decade ago, Dr. Manary helped develop RUTFs, which are peanut-based, vitamin-enriched nutritional packets that have resulted in 95 percent of children recovering from malnourishment compared to 25 to 40 percent from traditional hospital therapies. Project Peanut Butter is now operating in Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Mali.
Ghana is one of the top 10 peanut producing countries in the world and has a robust and growing peanut farming industry. 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 be assisting the Project Peanut Butter team through the company's expertise in sourcing and processing peanuts.
While Ghana has one of the strongest emerging economies in Africa, food insecurity still persists in rural areas due to unstable production, insufficient purchasing power and bad roads. Nutrient deficiencies are 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 because few farmers use optimal farming techniques. The Project Peanut Butter program in Ghana will work to improve the peanut farming sector by providing farmers with access to higher quality inputs and better planting and harvest techniques.
"Because of our experience in peanut processing and our commitment to improving communities in West Africa, Project Peanut Butter is an exciting project for us," said Michele Buck, Hershey's Senior Vice President, Chief Growth Officer. "We are honored to be working with Dr. Manary and his dedicated team in reducing childhood malnutrition."
Dr. Manary started Project Peanut Butter in Malawi and has committed his life to solving childhood malnutrition. "Project Peanut Butter Ghana will both address the urgent need to reduce malnourishment among children and increase the capacity of peanut farming to be a source of food long into the future," added Dr. Manary.