Edesia to receive portion of $200M to relieve child hunger

MARIA VELEZ, left, and CEO Navyn Salem check food packages as they move along the production line at the Edesia plant in North Kingstown.
/ PBN FILE PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
MARIA VELEZ, left, and CEO Navyn Salem check food packages as they move along the production line at the Edesia plant in North Kingstown.
/ PBN FILE PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Since 2022, Edesia has nearly doubled the number of children its “ready-to-use therapeutic food” can reach globally.

With a recent allocation of $200 million, awarded through the U.S. Agency for International Development and shared with Georgia-based MANA Nutrition Factory, the manufacturer is gearing up to produce a similar increase, said Caroline Ogonowski, Edesia’s director of communications.

The recent allocation, announced May 3, follows a $577 million initiative to fight global hunger in 2022. After an initial $200 million allocation from USAID, public and private donors amassed the rest of the half-million-dollar-plus donation.

As a result of that funding, Edesia was able to scale its production capabilities from taking place 24 hours a day, five days per week, to 24/7, Ogonowski said. 

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“All of that funding contributed to reaching double the children,” she said.

Edesia’s products reached 2.7 million children in 2022, Ogonowski said, and 5 million last year. 

With last week’s USAID allocation, “we’re hoping for something similar this time around,” Ogonowski said. “This is not the time to take the foot off the pedal.” 

This upward scaling in production is particularly necessary, as conflict and warfare cause starvation in Gaza, Sudan and Ukraine, USAID said in a statement. The organization also notes that Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Haiti are in acute need of aid, and notes the climate crisis as another contributor to global hunger.

Ogonowski also highlighted conflict-driven hunger as a pressing concern.

“The number of children that are suffering from acute malnutrition has escalated in recent years, and the majority of that is due to conflict worldwide,” Ogonowski said. “Child wasting is something that takes the lives of 1 in 5 children under the age of 5, so it’s such a critical issue and deserving of our attention.” 

Ready-to-use therapeutic foods provide rapid treatment to children suffering from malnutrition and child wasting. Edesia and MANA are the only manufacturers of these foods in the United States. Edesia has yet to receive word on how the funding will be divided between the two organizations, Ogonowski said.

Globally, around 45 million children suffer from child wasting, according to USAID, which is the deadliest form of malnutrition.

USAID partners UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Program will assist in global distribution of the ready-to-use therapeutic foods.

Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.

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