Plumpynut, a vitamin-enriched concoction developed by Doctors Without Borders, isn’t a brand-new invention, but it’s been getting some recent attention, thanks to Anderson Cooper’s report on 60 Minutes. As early as 2003, the Doctors Without Borders online diary mentioned passing out Plumpynut to children in Uganda:
Our work began in the hospital measles unit so the team spent the night setting up isolation procedures, distributing cups, blankets, plumpynut [a blended food based on peanuts and used to treat malnourished children] and treatments. There were already 51 patients in that room and more arrive every day.
Plumpynut is consumed from serving-size pouches, it doesn’t require refrigeration or clean water—two things in short supply in many of the villages where kids are surviving on it—and it doesn’t need to be cooked. But what exactly is this stuff? Cooper explains:
Plumpynut is a remarkably simple concoction: it is basically made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter paste. It is very sweet, and because of that kids cannot get enough of it.
Each serving of Plumpynut is the nutritional equivalent of a multivitamin and a cup of milk. A daily supply of Plumpynut costs about a dollar. It would never catch on in America—peanut allergies are too widespread these days. But according to Dr. Susan Shepherd, a pediatrician from Butte, Montana, who works with Doctors Without Borders in Niger, peanut allergies aren’t an issue: Food allergies don’t pose nearly as big a problem in developing countries as they do in industrialized ones.