Great American entrepreneurial legends from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs have always been quick to admit success is seldom just about what we can do for ourselves. America has a long and proud history of creating innovations that change the world and make a difference in the lives of others.
Today, “doing good” is not only the right thing to do, it’s also clearly within our national security and economic interests. The developing world is the destination of half of all U.S. exports, which is why our country’s investments in those places are so important, and there’s a new generation of businesses and non-profit organizations committed not just to making a profit, but also to giving back.
The American Dream, at its best, is to do both. My dream for “doing well by doing good” began almost four years ago in an unlikely place, Washington, D.C. I was a Senate staffer and learned for the first time during a UNICEF presentation about an easy-to-make product that could bring dying children back from the brink of starvation called “RUTF,” short for “Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food.”
RUTF is basically peanut butter, powdered milk, sugar, and some vitamins and minerals and can revive young children suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition. It’s not just a Band Aid on a horrific, intractable problem, but a solution that cures malnourished children nearly 95 percent of the time!
At the time, I didn’t know this would inspire me to start one of the world’s largest RUTF production operations, MANA Nutrition. But one key ingredient to success is timing. I had already seen first-hand the effects of chronic hunger and severe malnutrition during the 10 years I spent doing mission work in Uganda. I wanted to figure out how to make the world a better place, one hungry child at a time.
Today, MANA’s headquarters are located right outside Charlotte. We collaborate with area businesses like ADM and Birdsong Peanuts to save lives and strengthen our local economy. Our 30,000-square-foot facility is in the heart of peanut country in Fitzgerald, Georgia, employing dozens of local workers.
The MANA factory can turn out as many as 25,000 packets per hour, enough to feed 1,500 starving children per day. The product is being shipped to victims of Severe Acute Malnutrition from the Horn of Africa to Guatemala.
But MANA is just one of the many ways we in North Carolina have a proud tradition of being engaged in today’s interconnected world. Whether it’s the 4,000 North Carolinians who have served as Peace Corps volunteers, the $28.7 billion in N.C. goods and services exported to foreign markets, or companies like Pike Electric working to bring electricity to remote areas of Tanzania, our state knows the benefits international engagement brings home.
Today, the need for U.S. leadership in the world has never been greater. The success of our country’s presence abroad depends on the smart investments we make at home to create jobs and make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
MANA won’t solve world hunger, but we’re chipping away at it one life at a time. Just three servings a day can save the life of a starving child. And to a desperate mother and her child, that means everything. And for me and my colleagues, we’re living a little of the American Dream at its best.