Hello everyone! My name is Kathrin Hassler and I am the Finance and Business Development Officer at Meds & Food for Kids (MFK) in Haiti. For six years I put my education, skills and enthusiasm to work at a large Swiss bank, both in Zurich and Hong Kong. But after over half a decade, my desire to make a positive social impact beyond the banking industry was overwhelming. I sought out LGT Venture Philanthropy, whose ICats Fellowships match NGOs and social enterprises with skilled professionals all over the world – and here I am – in Haiti.
Meds & Food for Kids works to save lives by combatting malnutrition. As a consequence of poverty and unemployment, malnutrition continues to plague Haiti, more so than any other country in the Western Hemisphere.
– 1 in 3 children is stunted
– 1 in 5 children is underweight
– 1 in 10 children is severely malnourished
– 1 in 14 children dies before age five years
Not only are the physical effects of severe acute malnutrition substantial but it also has a mental cost. A child who is not nourished properly during the first three years of life will have limited brain development. This affects intelligence, school performance and thus future opportunities, both on an individual level and for Haiti as a whole. This vicious cycle of poverty must be acknowledged – enter MFK.
MFK knows that malnutrition can be successfully treated, if addressed early. We work to provide care to children who need it the most. To do this, we need a product that doesn’t just alleviate severe acute malnutrition but gives children the nutrition they need, to advance physically and mentally. This product is called Plumpy’Nut. It is a Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) used around the globe to treat malnutrition. The main ingredient? Peanuts! Lucky for us, Haiti is a peanut producing country, giving us the opportunity to implement change throughout the value chain. Improving the lives of not only the products’ final user but many key players along the way. As Haiti’s only producer of Plumpy’Nut (Medika Mamba in Creole), MFK seeks to bring a holistic approach to manufacturing, living up to its mission to ‘end malnutrition and ignite economic development in Haiti’ through three areas:
1 Producing Locally – By choosing to build a 15,000 square foot factory right here in Haiti, MFK creates fulltime employment for over 50 factory workers. This not only injects money and resources into the local economy but builds capacity in local staff. By creating jobs for Haitians, these workers can eventually lift themselves out of the poverty that leads to malnutrition.
2 Supporting Farmers – MFK buys local peanuts. Despite being more expensive than imported peanuts, MFK buys local peanuts to boost farmer incomes. MFK also provides training for local smallholder farmers to increase their yields and improve the quality of their peanuts.
3 Treating Malnutrition – Not only does MFK donate Medika Mamba to malnutrition clinics, but it also works with local nurses, community health workers and universities to support the management of malnutrition and nutrition education programs. Every parent with a child in our malnutrition program is offered lessons about good nutrition and hygiene to prevent recurring malnutrition. MFK’s impact stretches beyond Haiti; our customers include UNICEF, WFP and local humanitarian organizations, which send our product to countries in South and Central America and Africa.
MFK has come a long way since its creation in 2003. We’ve reached many milestones such as building and moving into a new state-of-the-art factory in 2012, and our first export of Medika Mamba in 2014. As MFK continues to grow, we have a great need to develop better financial management and planning systems as well as business advancement. From generating sound annual budgets and financial forecasting to creating new products and business avenues increasing sales, I am committed to supporting MFK in its long-term strategy. The ultimate goal of MFK is to be financially sustainable, increasing its social impact and putting Haiti on the path to a stronger future. I am fortunate to be a part of this endeavor, striving to break the poverty cycle, helping Haitians not just survive but thrive.
Please see below a few impressions of our work and environment:
Our state-of-the-art factory, built in 2012:
Local farmers harvesting peanuts:
A mother feeding Medika Mamba to her girl: