Fighting child hunger

For MANA, a non-profit committed to helping end malnutrition, success is gauged by the number of children they can bring back from starvation. Working with Bühler nut roasting technologies and digital services provides them with the ability to save money and produce more of their therapeutic food. And that means saving more lives. 


Entering the mana food production plant, you are greeted by a large photograph of a young Ethiopian girl. Asking the CEO about it, he proudly explains: “She is my boss.” Welcome to MANA, a non-profit humanitarian food aid company based in the peanut growing heartland of the American south. Its aim, with the support of Bühler solutions, is to help tackle global child malnutrition.

Mark Moore Mark Moore Mark Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of MANA

The story of how a humanitarian food producer ends up in the unlikely setting of the city of Fitzgerald, Georgia, starts with its Co-Founder and CEO Mark Moore. It is a journey that took him from Flint, Michigan, via some of the most distressed parts of Africa to the United States Senate and then into the world of US food aid to finally becoming a peanut processor in Georgia. In January 2020 Bühler joined MANA on its humanitarian quest by providing a food processing solution that Moore calculates has reduced his costs and enabled company growth to feed more children in crisis-ridden regions of Afghanistan, Madagascar, Chad, Rwanda, Somalia, and many others. Moore points to the boxes of his products ready for shipment: “Each box means a child will not go hungry,” he says. It’s a sentiment enumerated by a large counter that ticks away in  the plant recording the number of children served life-saving nutrition in far-away continents.

Brought up in Flint, Michigan, which he describes as “a blue-collar world with poverty all around us,” Moore moved in his twenties to Uganda to join a Christian mission at the height of the Rwandan genocide and the Aids epidemic. 

We are saving 2 dollars on every box we produce, which will have a huge impact on our capacity to provide aid.

Mark Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of MANA

His time in Africa quickly taught him that poverty is relative and his experiences forged the motivation that would ultimately lead him to set up MANA. “I went from being the poorest guy I knew to the richest guy I knew by virtue of a plane ticket,” explains Moore. “It is an existentially very powerful thing to happen, I think very few people are given the gift of such an experience.”

After 10 years in Uganda and having learned a rare Ugandan dialect, Moore returned to the US and secured a place as a translator on a US Senate delegation exploring displaced communities in Uganda. It was on this trip that he witnessed the cultural, educational, and physical impacts of malnutrition on children. Traveling to the northern Uganda, South Sudan border, he saw first-hand what life was like in Bidibidi, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. Today, this refugee settlement is home to over a quarter of a million people, mostly women and children, forced to flee civil war in South Sudan. Accepting an invitation to become a Senate advisor on Africa, Moore then started to discover up close about the politics of food aid. He learned that the backbone of the US program was based on producing something called Corn Soy Blends (CSB), a blend of maize and soybeans with added vitamins and minerals typically used by organizations like USAID, the World Food Program, and UNICEF to alleviate hunger.

Sending in the Navy Seals

Based on his experiences, Moore realized there was a critical gap in the way US food aid was being delivered. He argued there was a need for a much more targeted response to help address severe acute malnutrition in areas that lack the infrastructure necessary for the larger food programs. 

This was the eureka moment that led to the creation of MANA. He uses a military analogy to explain the philosophy behind his company. “If there is a war you send in the Navy with its destroyers and aircraft carriers, which I equate to the World Food Program and its distribution of CSB.  But, if you want to knock out a terrorist cell then you send in the Navy Seals, small-in-number

Mana_7_production_sample test Mana_7_production_sample test The technician is collecting a sample, which will be tested in the lab for quality.

and much less costly, but effective. At MANA our products are the Navy Seals in the battle against malnutrition.” In the war against malnutrition a Navy Seal comes in the form of the humble peanut. It contains monounsaturated fats, which make it easy to digest. It is high in calories and rich in zinc and protein, which are important for the immune system and muscle development. When made into paste and with added vitamins, it is possible to produce a product with a shelf life of 2 years, delivered in easy- to-open food-grade packaging. Simple to distribute while not requiring added water, cooking or refrigeration, a mother can give it to her child without having to first travel to a feeding center. 

The covid-19 shutdowns are having crippling effects on the poorest of the poor and they’re just falling off that edge of the cliff into deeper and deeper hunger.

Mark Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of MANA

The idea of using a peanut paste for humanitarian aid is not new. In 1996 André Briend, a French pediatric nutritionist who spent years working in humanitarian crises, developed a peanut paste that is today marketed by the French food-aid producer Nutriset Group as Plumpy’nut. But this was the first time anyone had thought of producing it in America as a resource for food agencies. Which is how in 2010 Moore came to start building a peanut  processing plant in Georgia. “Being here kind of makes us unbeatable when it comes to sourcing peanuts,” he points out.


Being part of the solution

MANA produces 121,000 pounds (55,000 kilograms) a day of four peanut-based products sold to food aid agencies for a variety of crises. It accounts for around 10 percent of global production. Its best seller is Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), which is designed to treat children age 6 months and older who have been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. An acutely malnourished child can be fed three packets of RUTF a day for seven days to regain enough body weight to start returning to a more balanced diet. Given three packs a day for six weeks, more than 90 percent of children recover.

MANA’s Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food (RUSF) treats children ages 6 months to 5 years suffering moderate acute malnutrition and acts as  a dietary supplement. “We target our products at children as, unlike adults, if a child loses 2 pounds due to going without food, they die. There is no time to spare for kids, so we have to act quickly,” says Moore. MANA’s two other products, Lipid-based Nutrient Supplement (LNS) and Humanitarian Supply Ration (HSR) are designed to prevent malnutrition in children, pregnant women, and adults.

Moore is keen to emphasize that being a non-profit producer that sells to aid agencies still means his company is run on the strictest commercial principles. “We have to operate very much like a forprofit entity, keeping a tight control on our costs, which requires a for-profit mentality within a not-for-profit structure. I call this a ‘for-meaning business’, which is why we keep score of the children we have served in the plant, to make sure we wake up every day and feed as many kids as we can.” 

This drive is why, in 2019, MANA turned to Bühler as it started to explore the possibility of roasting its own peanuts rather than buying them for processing.

The greatest scourge of the peanut producer is aflatoxin. It is one of the reasons Moore chose not to produce his humanitarian foods nearer to where they would most likely be needed. “If you grow peanuts, pull them out of the soil and stack them, a mold starts to grow,” explains Moore. “You have to keep them cold, so you need to put them in cold storage – a difficult thing to do in Africa.” The other scourge of the peanut processor is salmonella. 

Highest efficiency and safety

MANA started to explore the most efficient roasting solution to maximize its capacity to deliver aid. What attracted Moore to Bühler was its reputation for food safety. “What we produce has to be safe,” emphasizes Moore. “I started reading how Bühler is a world leader in food safety and that if you have a Bühler roaster and you are really worried about aflatoxin and salmonella then you are secure in that you are using the gold standard, as the process involves kill steps that arrest any pathogens. When you have Bühler behind you that’s pretty darn good when you have the inspectors in.”

mana7 mana7 The AeroRoast is capable of roasting 4,600 kilograms of peanuts per hour.
mana_peanuts mana_peanuts Raw peanuts are cleaned prior to roasting.

The more MANA explored the economics of doing its own roasting, the more efficient an idea it appeared. MANA calculated that if it could roast its own nuts, it would cost 70 cents to produce a pound of paste, compared to 1 dollar when roasted nuts are bought in. “Today we are saving 2 dollars on every box we produce, which will have a huge impact on our capacity to provide aid. There is no single thing we could have done to make that big an impact other than partner with Bühler,” explains Moore. MANA estimates that within another 2 years the cost of the roaster will be paid off and the profit will then be of sole benefit to those in the most desperate need.

mana_outside-view mana_outside-view The MANA facility located in the Georgia countryside near peanut growers.

The AeroRoast solution that Bühler installed delivers high-velocity air from all sides of the conveyor to provide an even roast across the bed of peanuts. When linked to Bühler Insights and the Mercury MES factory automation system, the production team at MANA were able to further optimize production parameters while receiving realtime feedback on machine performance and raw material variables. Moore marvels at the capabilities of the roaster and its throughput of 10,000 pounds of peanuts an hour. “Bühler also has this amazing Insights system that uses sensors throughout the roasting process to collect, analyze, and use data to optimize the roasting process. So, they’re actually gathering real-time data remotely from our roaster, running it through algorithms, which is really helping maximize productivity and helping to ensure the safety of our products,” he explains.

Over the past couple of years, demand for RUTF has quickly been rising as a combination of Covid-19, climate change, and conflict spark further crises around the world. Covid-19 has taken its toll as markets that subsistent farmers relied on closed due to public health restrictions. School closures have led to children missing lunches while closed markets also meant families being unable to afford medicines for their children and school fees. Covid-19 has resulted in poverty cascading through social systems and child malnutrition has increasingly been the result. “The Covid-19 shutdowns are having crippling effects on the poorest of the poor and they’re just falling off that edge of the cliff into deeper and deeper hunger,” explains Moore. “We are facing an unprecedented period of hunger which we have not seen since maybe the Second World War.”

mana-map mana-map A map on the wall of the MANA lobby shows areas where their products have been distributed.
Our goal is to be three times the size that we are today over the next 5 years and at the heart of that growth lies the Bühler roaster, because we are currently using just a third of its capacity.

Mark Moore, Co-Founder and CEO of MANA

Moore describes how recently a group in the UK called Afghan Welcome had contacted MANA explaining how they were processing Afghan refugees in the UK who were describing their families starving in Afghanistan. “They asked if we could get enough to feed 5,000 kids in Afghanistan? We already have it scheduled for production, testing, and packaging and we will soon be shipping it to Dubai for onward shipment to Afghanistan,” explains Moore. 

Today, if you walk into the MANA plant in Georgia, you will still see the ticker relentlessly enumerating the number of children who have received aid. According to Moore, the ticker has reached beyond 4 million and the plan is to just keep adding to that total: “Our goal is to be three times the size that we are today over the next 5 years. At the heart of that growth lies the Bühler roaster, because we are currently using just a third of its capacity. We plan to  be a USD 100 million company by 2027 and I think we can do it.”


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