Entrepreneurs Collaborate To Help Feed Malnourished Children Around The World

By Donita Naylor
The Providence Journal, R.I.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A collaboration between Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian and Edesia founder Navyn Salem is helping to distribute a peanut-based emergency food to crisis areas around the world.


A billionaire Rhode Island entrepreneur and her management team visited a nonprofit Rhode Island entrepreneur and some of her refugee workers Wednesday to celebrate a robot named Lucy.

All the robots at the high-tech Edesia Nutrition factory in Quonset Business Park have names. But Wednesday belonged to Lucy, a $700,000 machine that came to the company by way of all the people who bought the sentiment “to the MOON and back” on the Alex and Ani bangle depicting a moon and stars against a blue background.

As a Charity by Design bangle, Stellar Love earns $5 per bracelet for Edesia. The concept was a collaboration by the two entrepreneurs, Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian and Edesia founder Navyn Salem, and their teams.

Salem thanked Rafaelian for letting her pick the best way to spend the charity bangle money.

Lucy has been at work since September, adding a third more productivity to the factory, which makes a peanut-based emergency food that is sent to crisis areas around the world.

At the factory, peanuts grown in Georgia and Texas and roasted in North Carolina are ground into paste, mixed with milk powder, vegetable oil, 41 vitamins and minerals and sugar to mask the taste of the supplements, and packaged into “sachets.” Three sachets a day for seven weeks is enough to bring a child from skin and bones to bright-eyed and smiling.

As employees and managers from the two companies mingled and nibbled on cheese and crackers, they could see through to the factory floor, where boxes full of Plumpy’Nut, each box promising life for one child, moved along conveyors.

Within her red safety cage, Lucy worked away, unaware that the world’s richest jeweler was cutting, with an oversize pair of scissors, a length of Plumpy’Nut labels playing the role of ribbon.

While holding Lucy’s employee nameplate, Rafaelian said that Lucy is her mother’s name, and that her mother loves to feed people.

As Salem led a factory tour and mentioned that more Plumpy’Nut is produced in France, Rafaelian asked “How can we get to be first?”

Salem said they’d have to be four or five times bigger than they are now. “Wanna be the biggest!” Rafaelian said as the two high-fived.

Edesia, which Salem said is the name of the Roman goddess of food, has expanded its factory tours to seven types of experiences, one of which is for visitors to suit up and don hairnets for a few hours of factory work.

Since beginning production in Rhode Island in 2010, Edesia has fed 6 million malnourished children in more than 50 countries.

Ron Yanku, the plant operations director, figured out the plant’s output, with the help of Lucy, which is 852 sachets per minute, or 5.68 kids per minute. That’s 341 kids per hour, 5,800 kids per day and 29,000 kids per week.

Although Edesia is Rhode Island’s largest exporter, the company produces only enough food to save 20 percent of the world’s children facing starvation.

To learn more about the factory tours and how your organization can help answer the problem of hunger in the world, visit

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