Erik says he cannot see the appeal of peanut butter. Kids in Sweden never had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches growing up, he says.
I, however, was raised on peanut butter, taking sandwiches in my school lunch that ran the gamut from peanut butter and jelly to peanut butter and whatever was in the house — cucumber, coconut, banana, celery, green pepper, mayonnaise.
Peanut butter is high in protein and recommended in pregnancy, which is why Suzanne got back into it when she was expecting.
Today, as Tracy Boyer writes at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, nonprofits are adding extra nutrients to peanut butter and getting the inexpensive protein-rich food into the tummies of undernourished children in poor countries.
“Deep in the mountains of southwestern Honduras, Maria Digna Ramos Mendoza spoon-feeds Plumpy’Doz, a peanut-based supplement, to her infant daughter.
“Four other hungry children watch while either sitting on the dirt floor of their one-room hut or swinging from a hammock. Chickens, dogs and rats roam around the cluttered room, scavenging for their next meal.
“Mendoza is part of a research study being conducted by professors and students at [the University of North Carolina], part of the University’s larger focus on international health. Researchers aim to improve the growth and development of young infants in rural Honduras.
“The Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, a philanthropic organization founded by former Iams CEO and board chairman Clayton L. Mathile, funds the year-long project .
“The study is also in conjunction with the U.S. nonprofit organization Shoulder to Shoulder, an organization founded and directed by UNC School of Medicine faculty member Dr. Jeffrey Heck. …
UNC alumna Yanire Estrada [was recruited] “to lead a team of 11 local and U.S. health promoters to provide educational sessions for the mothers and assess each infant’s health on a monthly basis.
“Estrada’s team evaluates nearly 300 infants from 18 villages in both a control and intervention group. Heck insisted that both groups receive some beneficial subsidy for participating in the study, so every mother obtains food vouchers in addition to the educational sessions. …
“The intervention group receives Plumpy’Doz, a fortified lipid-based peanut butter spread, packed with essential nutrients including zinc, iron and vitamin A. The supplement is given to the infants three times a day in addition to their normal diet. …
UNC public health professor Margaret Bentley “noticed the easy access to cheap, packaged snacks and soft drinks that exists in North Carolina also exists in Santa Lucia. Both are troubling, as Honduran mothers feed this junk food to their infants, causing chronic diarrhea and sickness.
“ ‘I don’t think about working overseas as working over there (with) no connection to North Carolina,’ Bentley said. ‘Any problem that we have in North Carolina has a mirror image in another place.’ …
“Back in the mud hut, Mendoza stares lovingly as her infant begins eating Plumpy’Doz straight from the jar. Just six months ago, her daughter’s fragility deeply concerned her, but now she prides herself as she watches the color return to her child’s face.
“ ‘People stop me to ask what I am feeding my child because she is beginning to look so pretty,’ Mendoza said. ‘She is developing extremely well now.’ ”
Photograph: Pulitzer Center
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