Googled: Navyn Salem ’94

Published: September 2010

Navyn Salem ’94 is the founder and executive director of Edesia Global Nutrition Solutions, a nonprofit foundation that produces Plumpy’nut, a nutrient-rich, peanut-based paste—known in the aid community as an RUTF, or ready-to-use therapeutic food. Governments and humanitarian groups believe that such foods could eliminate malnutrition in the developing world.

Salem, a former executive with the advertising firm tmp.worldwide, began focusing on nutrition during a 2007 trip to her father’s homeland of Tanzania. She attempted to raise money from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to start an RUTF factory in Tanzania but discovered that U.S. government regulations allow such funding only for American-produced products. So she entered a joint venture with Nutriset, the French company that developed Plumpy’nut to manufacture it at a facility near her home in Providence, Rhode Island. Edesia (named for the Roman goddess of food) opened its first factory in March with 16 employees and a $2 million contract from USAID to produce 660,000 pounds of Plumpy’nut—the United Nations’ preferred treatment for severe malnutrition—and other RUTFs.

Salem is determined to establish RUTF production sites where the product is most needed and has plans for facilities in Tanzania and Latin America. “We are very big advocates of local production,” she told Newsweek. “Wherever the hotspots are for malnutrition, we’d like to have a factory there so these countries have their own labor and production.”

This feature was posted on Monday, September 13, 2010 and is filed under Research.
Photograph: Rupert Whiteley