FAST COMPANY // MARCH 22, 2019
This Inspiring Mom Is Changing The World, One Little Nut At A Time
Meet Navyn Salem, an inspiring Mom who’s changing the world. Having witnessed first-hand the crisis of children suffering from starvation and malnutrition, Navyn started Edesia – a non-profit that brings lifesaving, ready-to-use food on a global scale. Each year millions of “miracle packets” leave Edesia’s Rhode Island factory and are delivered by humanitarian aid workers to malnourished children. Her newest brand “Little Nut” introduces babies to peanuts. 100% of its profits are used for Edesia’s mission. This is Navyn’s story:
When I first stood in a peanut field in Tanzania I couldn’t quite grasp the immense power this little familiar legume could have to change lives and our world. It was 2007, I had 4 daughters under the age of 6, and decided to start a Plumpy’Nut factory in Tanzania, my father’s homeland. Why? Because I knew it had the potential to save lives.
Plumpy’Nut is a smooth blend of peanuts, milk powder, whey, sugar, vegetable oils, vitamins, and minerals – a “super-charged” peanut butter invented in France that brings a starving child back to good health in about 7 weeks. Since it was fully embraced by the humanitarian community in 2005 and endorsed by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, it has saved millions of lives.
After starting the Plumpy’Nut factory in Tanzania, I started Edesia, an even bigger ready-to-use foods factory in the USA that was also a nonprofit. My aim was to expand the reach of these life-saving foods even farther with partners like UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and USAID/USDA – and raise awareness that this is an urgent crisis that needs solving. We have shipped to 51 countries in the last eight years – and are reaching 2 million malnourished children each year from a new state-of-the-art factory.
I chose the name Edesia because it represents a powerful she, the Roman goddess of banquets and plenty, who as a she symbolically provides the gift of food like so many women do around the world. I could relate to her each time I set food down on my own kitchen table. And now I’ve made it my life’s work to make sure that nutritious food is the fundamental right of all of the world’s children.
One of the questions I am inevitably asked by visitors to our factory is “What about peanut allergies?” Which, I answer, is something rarely seen in developing countries.
That question was asked about as often as this one: “What are you doing for children in the USA?”
In early 2018, my team launched my answer to both of these questions.
Little Nut comes in the same kind of squeezy foil pack as Plumpy’Nut, but it’s a more appropriate recipe that is perfectly portioned for American children, who are thankfully rarely severely malnourished. Little Nut squeeze packs arrived on the block at the same time the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending introducing babies to peanuts around the age of 6 months so that they don’t develop a peanut allergy in the first place. A recent study had strongly suggested that early exposure to peanut protein may be the key to reducing peanut allergy risk.
Babies 6+ months cannot safely eat spoonfuls of thick, sticky peanut butter, which is why my team at Edesia made Little Nut easy to swallow. The addition of banana powder makes it naturally yummy without the need for added sweeteners. Moms and dads are already embracing it as their go-to snack that even their picky eaters love. Little Nut fits perfectly into the busy American life.
Best of all, 100% of proceeds from Little Nut go toward supporting the mission that I first embraced in 2007 standing in that field of peanuts. Little ones in the United States will be less likely to get peanut allergies, while more little ones around the world can get the lifesaving food they need to grow up healthy and strong. It’s a #winwin for everyone.
– By Navyn Salem