OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Fighting World Hunger with Peanut Butter

Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is a condition that results from depriving children between the ages of 1 and 3 of food, causing 3.5 million deaths around the world each year. Dismayed by the problem, pediatrician Dr. Mark Manary was determined to discover a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), that could be used to combat severe malnutrition. After experimenting with different ingredients, a peanut butter blend was discovered to be a perfect RUTF, and was clinically proven to combat SAM in children. Project Peanut Butter was born. Today, RUTF with home-based therapy is recognized to be the standard of care for Severe Acute Malnutrition around the world.

Photo of Jamie DeGiaimo
5 4

Written by

In the late 1990’s Dr. Mark Manary took issue with the forms of treatment that were being used to treat malnourished children in Malawi. The standard of care at the time was a milk-based formula, but it was ineffective, with only a 25% - 40% recovery rate. With Severe Acute Malnutrition accounting for the deaths of 3.5 million children around the world each year, another treatment was necessary.

Dr. Manary, along with a team of doctors, started to experiment with different ingredients that would yield a new therapeutic food- one that didn't spoil, didn't need to be cooked, could be used by mothers in a home setting, and was energy dense. 

Finally, in 2004 a perfect blend of peanut butter, powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar, vitamins and minerals was discovered. The peanut butter blend was considered the first Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), and when used in clinical trials had a 95% recovery rate. The Peanut Butter Project was born and the first RUTFs were handed out in Malawi.
In 2007, the United Nations, World Health Organization, and World Food Programme recognized RUTF with home-based therapy as the standard of care for severely malnourished children worldwide.
Today, Project Peanut Butter operates RUTF production facilities in Malawi and Sierra Leone, where they distribute RUTF out of their own mobile clinics at no charge. They also sell a large amount of RUTF at cost of manufacture to multiple governments and aid organizations around the world. Project Peanut Butter has treated over 400,000 children and continues to expand their operations.
The worldwide child mortality rate due to hunger is now at 6 million deaths per year. Just as Dr. Manary took issue with the standard malnutrition treatment methods in 1990’s, we must take issue with not being able to treat all the cases of malnutrition around the world today. How can we work together to get RUTF in the hands of those who really need it?  


Join the conversation:

Photo of Wojtek Konstanty

another great nonprofit organization that provides RUTF food to children is

MANA Nutrition -

and an awesome business model I really admire was started by the guys at Good Spread who give away a packet of RUTF food for every PB purchase we can enjoy

View all comments