Providence Plantation resident Mark Moore saw malnourished children when he was a teenager doing mission work in Africa.
Years later, Moore devoted his life to helping such kids. He created a nonprofit organization, MANA Nutrition, which delivers peanut paste packets to children all over the world.
During an event hosted by The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition on April 24, former state governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin presented Moore the Smart Power Innovator award.
Richard Parker, spokesman with the coalition, said Moore’s passion for philanthropy caught the attention of the awards committee early on, making him an obvious choice for the Smart Power Innovator award.
Moore said when a child develops acute malnutrition, they usually have weeks to live.
“That’s when you get at the end of your rope, and it’s usually a child under 6,” he said . “This is beyond being just hungry. You’ve ceased to be hungry.”
Doctors Without Borders originally created the nutritious peanut paste – often referred to as ready-to-use therapeutic food – after they realized that formula milk had its limitations. For instance, sending concentrated nutritious formula required that the mother have access to clean water.
Upon returning to the United States from Uganda in fall 2003, Moore went to graduate school at Georgetown University to earn his master of arts degree in communication, culture and technology. He graduated in 2005 and, soon after, started working for a senator from Louisiana in Washington, D.C.
By 2009, he decided he wanted to make a career of helping malnourished children, which is when he founded MANA Nutrition.
“A lot of us are born on third base,” Moore said. “How do I help people born in the dark dugouts of poverty?”
Today, his Charlotte-based organization produces peanut paste packets that cure young children abroad suffering from acute malnutrition. Each packet costs 30 cents to make and includes 500 calories. Moore said that’s the equivalent of eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a glass of milk and a multivitamin.
While the organization’s executives work in Charlotte, the rest of its workers are in Georgia, where the peanut paste packaging facility is located.
In the past year, the company has been able to feed roughly 250,000 children around the world, said MANA office administrator Patterson Maker.
MANA has been distributed in about 30 countries, with the majority of product going to Nigeria and Ethiopia. Other countries served include Mexico, Guatemala, North Korea, Cambodia, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso.
The MANA factory can turn out as many as 25,000 packets per hour, enough to feed 1,500 starving children per day. The organization works with UNICEF, U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies to deliver the product to those in need.
Reaching out at home
Moore is also helping to raise awareness about malnourished children by partnering with local schools in Charlotte.
Recently, he launched a pilot program at Socrates Academy in south Charlotte this spring with teacher Melody Hazelton.
Kid Calorie Cloud is a pilot program encouraging youth to be active, while educating them on malnutrition. Students wore pedometers for six weeks, which measure how many energy points they earn. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF, in partnership with MANA Nutrition, then gets donors to fund the manufacture of nutrition packets based on how many energy points are earned.
By the end of the program at Socrates, organizers found that one class of 20 kids can provide malnutrition treatment for 5 kids for six weeks.
“Melody deserves a medal for being so flexible in making our trial work,” Moore said. “She’s a great teacher and her creative twist on our half-baked idea really impressed UNICEF.”
Ultimately, Moore said he hopes to expand the school program throughout the country. He’s already looking at a couple of private schools in the area who may want to partner with MANA Nutrition, he said.
Parker said that helping feed children throughout the world is not only morally right but also economically sound. After all, he said, feeding children fosters stability on the ground and creates opportunities for those children to grow up and excel.
It also creates allies with the United States and other countries, which Parker said can help fight terrorism because “we’re striking it at its root.”
“He’s been able to see just how effective those nutrition programs have been in saving lives,” Parker said. “It’s the right thing for our country to be doing.”