Mark Manary is a professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine and an expert in childhood malnutrition.
More than two decades ago, Manary launched an effort in Africa to fight childhood malnutrition using a peanut butter-based therapeutic food fortified with micronutrients that helps children under age 5 gain weight quickly. It is easily digestible, requires no cooking or refrigeration, and can be served to children at home, avoiding trips to crowded medical facilities.
Recovery rates for malnourished children treated with this therapeutic food are 75% to 95%, compared with 25% to 40% with milk-based formula given in hospitals.
Imagine the effects of improving the brain development of millions of kids. Our ultimate mission was to change global policy, and that’s what we did. The children deserved nothing less.Mark Manary
In 2004 in Malawi, Manary founded the nonprofit Project Peanut Butter to produce and distribute this lifesaving product — also known as ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). Now Project Peanut Butter runs production facilities in Malawi, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Ghana. These factories use mainly local ingredients, generate jobs and support local economies. Communities take pride in running the factories and caring directly for their own children.
Manary’s research continues as he and his colleagues explore the most effective RUTF formulas for children in underdeveloped regions around the world. Most recently, a study led by Manary’s team found that a nutritional supplement containing high omega-3 and low omega-6 fatty acids can significantly improve cognition in severely malnourished children. His research prompted the United Nations to require adding high omega-3s and low omega-6s to therapeutic foods.