The Barrington woman who launched a nonprofit company that creates food products to save millions of children around the world from malnutrition introduced her Providence facility to Rhode Island’s congressional delegation and the head of one of her most significant partners Thursday afternoon, Aug. 20.
Navyn Salem, executive director of Edesia, led a tour of the small factory for United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah and U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. The delegation donned white smocks and hair nets to get a first-hand look at a major supplier of fortified peanut-based, ready-to-use food products.
USAID, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and other agencies that address emergencies, conflict zones, and disadvantaged communities overseas buy the ready-to-use foods (RTUF). Shah was especially pleased with USIAD’s partnership with Edesia.
These are “newly created, scientifically advanced food products that are designed to save the lives of some of the least fortunate people in the world,” Shah said. “From this facility, you reach 1.6 million kids in 35 countries."
“USAID is proud to be a partner with Edesia. We have purchased more than $13 million worth of food from Edesia. And we expect and believe that will grow as we build a long-term partnership that helps to transform the face of hunger around the world by bringing American science and ingenuity and entrepreneurship to the task.”
Edesia began producing Plumpy’Nut®, Plumpy’Sup™, Plumpy’Doz™, and Nutributter® about four years ago. These high energy-dense peanut pastes are made from peanuts, sugar, vegetable oils, whey, skimmed milk powder, soy flour, vitamins, and minerals.
For USAID, Edesia has produced enough Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and Ready-to-Use-Supplementary Food (RUSF) packets to reach many thousands of malnourished children. Another 300,000 children have received Nutributter® through a USAID Office of Food for Peace program that aims to reduce the prevalence of stunting worldwide, a condition that prevents children from doing well in school, staying healthy, and achieving lifelong productivity.
Edesia’s Providence factory employs almost 50 people, including former refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, and Burma. Using mostly U.S.-sourced ingredients, the plant makes and ships out enough nutritious packets to reach approximately 600,000 children each year.
Ready-to-use foods, first invented by the French company Nutriset, have a long shelf life of 24 months, require no cooking or dilution in water prior to use, and can be eaten directly from a foil packet.
“And it’s really delicious, too,” said Sen. Reed. “You need to try them.”