Should Fighting Hunger Be a Franchise Business?
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The idea of a business franchise is more likely to conjure an image of a Happy Meal than a famine food ration, but what if the same system that makes McDonald’s globally omnipresent could do the same for food aid or poverty-fighting?
Consider Coca-Cola. The company delivers its lineup of soft drinks to the most remote villages in just about every country on earth. Its network is so effective that it’s been tapped to carry anti-retroviral drugs to places aid agencies can’t reach affordably. The company does it through franchises, finding local solutions with training, monitoring, and logistical support from the high-tech Coke HQ.
Now, two aid-focused companies are trying something similar—though on a much smaller scale—to get starving children the nutrients they need.
Acute malnutrition is the severe but temporary form of hunger that afflicts 20 million children younger than 5 each year, especially during famine, war, or crop failures. Aid agencies treat the condition with hospitalization or ready-to-eat therapeutic foods. Plumpy’nut, the most well known RUTF, is something of a wonder food. It’s a nutrient fortified, peanut butter bar-like food packet that requires no water and no refrigeration and has a shelf life of two years. Groups like UNICEF buy the packs in bulk and distribute them to parents to build a starving kid back up again.