For several years, aid organizations have used Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) for the community-based treatment of severe malnutrition. The product’s effectiveness has been called nothing short of miraculous as emaciated children were nursed back to life in their own homes using this nutrient-dense, highly fortified paste. Instead of children being hospitalized for several weeks, RUTF provides an option for outpatient treatment of severe malnutrition, where the caregiver provides a child two, 92-gram packets of RUTF per day. The two packets provide about 1,000 calories, plus a very broad range of vitamins and minerals. As long as a severely malnourished child has enough appetite to consume them, the recuperative process will be complete in about six to ten weeks.

In the past, RUTF was not available as a USAID-donated commodity. Aid organizations had to buy the product using precious donor funds. But in response to the desperate need of victims of famine, war, and drought in the Horn of Africa, and recommendations of a recent USAID Food Aid Quality Review, USAID added RUTF to its list of commodities available to partners implementing humanitarian programs.

As a long-time food technologist for both USAID and the U.S. Army, I am very excited we have received the first shipments of RUTF from three valued suppliers: Edesia, Tabatchnick Fine Foods, and MANA Nutritive Aid Products. The product is able to bring many of those children back from the brink of starvation, and it is just one of many steps that will be taken to expand and improve the humanitarian foods provided by USAID.

I am acutely aware of the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, when providing the proper nutrition can positively impact the rest of a child’s life. As we commemorate another World Food Day, I am proud of USAID’s commitment to changing the future by changing the lives of those most vulnerable children, and I am honored to be a part of that effort.

Stephen Moody, Senior Advisor for Food Technology, Office of Food for Peace, USAID. Stephen provides USAID with advice on formulation, development, processing, and packaging technologies for new and existing food products for humanitarian assistance and emergency feeding programs. He received a MS in Food Science from Kansas State University in 2000. Stephen is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists, a senior member of the American Society for Quality, and holds dual certifications as an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor and ASQ Certified Quality Engineer. He retired from active duty in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps after 24 years of service. Among his many positions was that of Food Safety Officer for the US Army Central Command in the Persian Gulf where he was responsible for the inspection and approval of local sources for food and bottled water in East Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.