If you went shopping after World War II, you could walk into a store and make a life-saving purchase. Even if you were at home, you could do the same great deed simply through mail order. What was this mystery item people bought by the thousands after the war?
These were CARE packages to send to hungry people in countries lying in ruin. General Lucius Clay, commander of the American military government in Germany, made appeals to the public to send these packages. So did many others from all walks of life. This is how America reacted to the plight of those suffering overseas.
General Clay wrote, “when a CARE package arrived the consumer knew it was aid from America and that even the bitterness of war had not destroyed our compassion for suffering.”
You had several options when buying a CARE package. There were general rations which you could send to a family, or you could have these sent to an orphanage or hospital. Another option was to buy a CARE package specially designed for infants, one with baby food.
Well, today that CARE package for infants would come in the form of plumpy’nut, the miracle food recently profiled on the NBC Nightly News. This is a life-saving food for small children.
Plumpy’nut is peanut paste that comes wrapped in a small package, like many foods you find in grocery stores; except plumpy’nut is food specially designed to provide quick nutrients to severely malnourished children. It is widely used in areas struck by conflict, natural disasters, or extreme poverty. Plumpy’nut is easy to distribute because it does not require special preparation and storage.
In East Africa, where drought has caused massive food shortages, plumpy’nut is being distributed to children. It is saving their lives. Infants need proper nutrition in what is called the critical first 1,000 days. Without the nutrients, they will suffer lasting physical or mental damage.
Thousands of children have already starved to death in East Africa because of the food shortages, but those that get plumpy’nut can be saved.
Mindy Mizell of World Vision says, “One mom told me how she arrived in Puntland, Somalia with a severely malnourished toddler who wouldn’t play, stand, or smile…he took the plumpy’nut for a few weeks and was just fine! He looks great.”
A full supply of plumpy’nut is needed in East Africa to prevent more deaths.
Edesia, a Providence-based producer of plumpy’nut, has been running its factory 21 hours a day producing the life-saving food. Navyn Salem, Edesia’s director, said shipments are leaving almost every day to head to the East Africa famine zone. The plant was also fortunate to keep running through Hurricane Irene which tore through Providence and many other parts of the East Coast in August. Salem remarked, “we were very fortunate to be in a spot that was spared, phew!!”
Plumpy’nut production has to keep running at Edesia and other factories that produce the miracle food. But funding is always an issue, as aid agencies continually face this challenge. Not enough resources are committed by the international community toward fighting child hunger. The UN World Food Programme and other organizations are well short of funding to meet the demand.
Plumpy’nut is needed in many more areas of the globe: Afghanistan, Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, and Haiti, just to name a few. All of these countries have high rates of child malnutrition, and plumpy’nut and its variations are desperately needed.
After World War II, stores like the H. & S. Pogue Company of Cincinnati even had displays of CARE packages. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that upon Pogue’s grand opening of their display in 1947, Captain Victor Heintz made the first purchase. Heintz was a World War I veteran who served on the front lines in France. Years later, he was again coming to the aid of France in the form of a CARE package.
Another Cincinnati resident, Siegfried Deutsch, got started well before Pogue’s CARE outlet opened. Deutsch bought at least 35 CARE packages. The Enquirer said number 35 went to a poverty-stricken mother and her young daughter in Vienna, Austria, Deutsch’s homeland.
Retail stores today could offer an outlet for people to buy CARE plumpy packages for starving infants overseas. As the CARE package made such a difference saving lives, winning the peace, and rebuilding Europe after World War II, plumpy packages can do the same today.
Article first published as Plumpy’nut: A Modern-Day CARE Package on Blogcritics Magazine.