It may be peanut butter’s finest hour. Combined with vitamins, minerals and milk powder to yield an ultra-nutritious paste called Plumpy’nut, an enriched peanut melange is being hailed as a miracle food that’s rescuing starving young children in Third World famine-relief programs.
Concocted by scientist André Briend for the French company Nutriset, the ingenious product is sealed in individual-dose foil packets. Plumpy’nut is ready to eat and has a long (2-year) shelf life. Unlike powdered-milk formulas, it needs no mixing with water (often a source of life-threatening contamination). But best of all it tastes good, and hungry kids, from infancy on, eat it eagerly.
While Plumpy’nut was first used in hospitals, relief workers quickly realized the potential for having parents give it to their children at home too. “The mothers are much happier this way, because many times, the child is not sick, just hungry,” explains Milton Tectonidis, M.D., nutrition specialist for Doctors Without Borders—which distributed Plumpy’nut and other emergency rations to 40,000 desperately needy children last year.
True to its name, Plumpy’nut helps kids gain weight fast. A 22-pound child gains, on average, 1.5 pounds a week on a Plumpy’nut regimen of two packets a day. Those pounds can be lifesaving, says Tectonidis: “Malnutrition is a cofactor in over 50 percent of child deaths per year.”
Spread Good Cheer
If you’d like to help Plumpy’nut get to children who need it, visit www.doctorswithoutborders.com and make a contribution. Just $20 will provide enough Plumpy’nut packets to rehabilitate one child.
—Alice Z. Lawrence