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Eat This Peanut Butter, Help Save A Child’s Life

For every jar purchased, Good Spread–a one-to-one giving startup–will donate a therapeutic food packet to a malnourished refugee child from South Sudan.

If you order chocolate pretzel peanut spread from a tiny startup based in Boulder, Colorado, you could help save a toddler’s life in South Sudan.

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The startup, called Good Spread, was inspired by the fact that peanut butter is part of a simple solution for severe malnutrition in young children: therapeutic food packets originally developed by Doctors Without Borders. These compact packets are “considered the cure to malnutrition,” Alex Cox, one of the founders of Good Spread, tells Co.Exist. “It’s peanut butter, milk, and vitamins. And three of these a day, for about six weeks, is a full treatment.”

Cox learned about the treatment while working at a nonprofit named Mana, which produces a ready-to-use version of the therapeutic spread in small packets.

“We loved how simple the cure is,” he says. “And we learned so much about peanut butter that we said that we should think about doing a for-profit company and kind of go the Toms Shoes route.”

Cox recognized the opportunity: Americans eat more than a billion pounds of peanut butter a year, spending around $800 million on the spread.

“We said, what if we could sort of get some fraction of that market to buy our own peanut butter that was providing this therapeutic peanut butter for malnourished children?” Cox says. “At a certain scale, we could start to make a dent in the issue globally.”

Therapeutic food packets are given to young children who are still nursing, but can’t get enough protein through their mother’s milk, and as a result, aren’t developing normally. “What you get is a cycle of underdeveloped people, because if you don’t get protein when you’re a baby your brain doesn’t develop,” Cox says. “If you missed that window, there’s not much you can do for a person after that.”

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Good Spread launched its first product through a crowdfunding campaign in 2012; it’s now available on Amazon and in a handful of grocery stores. Now, they’re releasing four new flavors through a new Indiegogo campaign, which closes on March 15.

The startup is focusing on aiding refugees from South Sudan, both to bring attention to the region and because it was a place they knew that they could help. More than 1.5 million people have fled from South Sudan to Uganda to escape conflict.

“It’s the third largest refugee crisis in the world right now,” Cox says. “But because of what’s going on with Syria and Afghanistan, it’s somewhat under-reported. For us, it’s actually a little easier to access–if we want to get aid to Syria, we just can’t.”

Working with Mana, and with partners on the ground in Uganda, Good Spread hopes to treat 1,000 severely malnourished children through the new campaign. For every jar of peanut butter purchased, the company donates one packet; 100 packets can fully treat a child.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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