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Are Micronutrients A More Efficient Path To Food Aid Abroad?

Sir Richard's Condoms and Tom's Shoes aren't the only folks pursuing a "buy one, gift one" model of business and philanthropy at the same time. A new supplement company is hoping to use the market for prenatal vitamins in rich countries to help fight nutrient deficiencies in pregnant women and unborn children in poorer nations.

Following in the footsteps of charities like the Micronutrient Initiative, Build Nutrition Vitamins was founded to fight what is sometimes referred to as "hidden hunger", or the issue of micronutrient deficiencies. According to Josh Rubin, one of the founders, over 30 million babies are born malnourished each year, while over 56 million women suffer from anemia worldwide. According to the company's website, micronutrient-based food aid may offer a more cost-efficient, effective and realistic path to fighting malnutrition than traditional food distribution programs:

Essential nutrients have an enormously high cost to benefit ratio. Each dollar spent on supplementation creates benefits worth more than 17 dollars. Better health, fewer deaths and increased future earnings add up to benefits of more than $1 billion yearly. Food-based approaches are difficult to implement on a global scale. Micronutrient programs are an affordable and successful intervention that helps mothers and children change the cycle of poverty and vitamin deficiency now.

There's little doubt that if vitamin supplements can aid pregnant mothers in rich countries, they should be at least as effective in combatting malnutrition abroad. Whether or not they should be compared against traditional food aid and food sovereignty programs - or as a supplement to them (pun intended), is a matter of important debate. But if you're buying supplements for your own pregnancy, it's hard to argue with the logic of getting a bottle for someone else who needs them too.

From our friends at TreeHugger, the leading online destination for the news and ideas that are driving sustainability mainstream.