Client Spotlight: MANA Nutrition Leads a Village to Fight World Hunger
As we celebrate the holidays with family, food, and numerous other blessings, we are reminded that so many in the world are suffering. Millions of parents go to bed at night worrying about how they’ll feed their children tomorrow.
According to the United Nations food agencies, 690 million people go to bed hungry every night. Even in the U.S., one of the wealthiest countries in the world, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, are food insecure. And in the face of extreme climate changes, these stats will only get worse.
That’s what makes the work that MANA Nutrition does so important. MANA makes ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) that feed more than 2 million severely malnourished children in Africa.
The product comes in an easy-to-open food-grade packet that doesn’t require water, cooking or refrigeration, and has a two-year shelf life. RUTF tastes like peanut butter and is easy to deploy and easy to eat. When fed with three packets a day for six weeks, more than 90% of children recover from severe acute malnutrition (SAM). MANA produces more than 2.5 million packets a week out of its state-of-the-art 80,000-square foot manufacturing facility in Fitzgerald, GA.
Co-Founder and CEO Mark Moore describes MANA’s purpose like this, “While some organizations work under complicated visions, missions, and values, MANA keeps it simple. We are here to end malnutrition. We have created a culture and an environment that is dedicated to helping children. From day one, we decided to be the ‘MANA Village’ – a community that just happened to be a company.”
The term MANA also carries personal meaning for me. Mana in Maori – the indigenous language of New Zealand where I grew up – means pride, presence, and power, which seems just as appropriate for this organization.
For more than six years, Intertek Alchemy has played a role in the MANA Village with training solutions to help ensure the quality and safety of its RUTF food products and the safety of its workers.
There’s zero room for waste because families desperately depend on MANA and its RUTF products for survival. Any portion that is contaminated with foreign materials or improperly packaged means a malnourished child doesn’t eat. In addition, MANA faces the same challenges as for-profit food manufacturers, including health and safety audits and hiring and retaining employees. That’s added pressure on top of the typical challenges that food manufacturers face.
“Material and seal integrity are critical concerns for our operations,” said Cherryl Griner, MANA food safety and quality manager. “From a quality standpoint, we spend a lot of time checking the integrity of our packaging because we don’t want any production contaminates to be an issue once our product leaves our facility and travels overseas and through hard conditions to the shores of Africa.”
MANA uses Intertek Alchemy for food and employee safety training during onboarding and throughout the year with refresher courses. With 50 or more employees, the organization relies on the Alchemy platform to cross-train employees for multiple functions and document and validate that training to auditors. Griner also utilizes Alchemy Creator, the platform’s easy-to-use course authoring plugin, to incorporate company-specific details into the group.
Like other manufacturers, MANA has to compete to recruit and maintain employees. Griner said turnover can be high during the first couple of months on the job, especially with the limits of online onboarding during the pandemic. But the longer employees stay, the more they connect with the purpose and importance of their work.
Griner makes that personal connection by infusing training with images and stories of colleagues and the children they serve and save worldwide. The team also displays photos of the MANA children throughout the manufacturing facility to remind them about the importance and impact of their efforts.
“Intertek Alchemy really helps maintain and minimize the turnover at our facility,” she said. “If you get them inside the facility and past the 90-day mark, they’re usually here for the long term. It’s so nice to work at a company where you know what you’re doing is actually having a global impact. Our training shows employees how they’re helping to feed the world. Teaching why their work is important helps us sustain a food safety culture within the company.”
Moving forward, MANA plans to introduce a new line of packaged peanut butter products for food banks in the U.S., which typically lack protein sources. Peanut butter is a staple at food banks and a common source of protein for their clients. However, it’s not cheap. And it’s tough to convince manufacturers to produce an affordable product.
“Peanut butter is a kind of gold standard for every food bank in America,” Moore said. “But they generally come up short because food companies see it as a low-margin product and therefore limit production. But as a non-profit organization, we can do that.”
With Intertek Alchemy, MANA can create new training to support its new line of products for malnourished children in the U.S.
“Our efforts abroad and here at home reflect MANA’s global village mentality, requiring everyone to be resourceful and committed to sticking together,” Moore said. “We pull for our village-mates and cheer when they succeed.”
Intertek Alchemy is proud to be a part of MANA’s village and their passion for helping to make a difference around the world.