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With 20 million children right now on the verge of starvation around the world, a Rhode Island-based non-profit company has focused the past seven years on helping the hardest-hit countries. Edesia Nutrition is producing a lifesaving peanut-based food that needs no refrigeration or water, reaching more than 17,000 children a week. This month Jim Hummel talks with the company’s founder about the evolution of the operation and gets a first-hand look at its new production facility in Quonset.
Click here for more information about Edesia.
Click here to watch the extended interview.
The production schedule at this factory in the Quonset Business Park is unrelenting.
Then again, the need for what’s being produced - a ready-to-eat food product for starving children in the hardest hit areas of the world - is equally relentless.
Every day half a million of these the small, squishy packets containing a mixture of peanuts, milk powder, sugar, vegetable oil and vitamins - called Plumpy Nut - are produced by Edesia, a company founded seven years ago by Navyn Salem.
She started with nothing but a vision.
Salem: ``No experience, no office, no business plan, no firm skill set that is preparing me for this venture.’’
Salem’s father and his family came from Tanzania and a visit there a decade ago left a huge impression on her.
Salem: ``There’s so many problems when you visit a place like that, that it’s very hard to pick just one. The one thing that struck me was malnutrition. And the fact that it was actually killing children by the millions. And nobody was talking about it. We were talking more about AIDS, about clean water, and all of those issues, which of course are very important. But this issue was getting no attention whatsoever.’’
So she set out to build a factory in Tanzania, using local resources and employees. Then she turned her attention to establishing an operation in Rhode Island.
Salem: ``We started in my spare bedroom. I had one employee, then two employees and then it started to get a little crowded in our house. My husband was wondering who all these people are who are coming in and out. We had to take conference calls in the bathroom so you weren’t interrupted by other people on your conversation.’’
In 2009 she moved Edesia - which comes from the Latin word `to eat’ - into this 15,000-square-foot space in Providence. And she partnered with the French company Nutriset, developers of the Plumpy Nut line.