ATLANTA – A South Georgia-based manufacturer dedicated an expansion Friday with the capacity to produce millions of packets a day of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to prevent and treat acute malnutrition.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a $200 million initiative to maximize the procurement and distribution of RUTF produced by MANA Nutrition in Fitzgerald. USIA Administrator Samantha Power was on hand for the ceremony.

“This U.S. government investment in RUTF … can save millions of the most vulnerable children in our global village – and it will enable MANA to draw upon the strength of our village in Georgia, which proudly supplies the workforce and key ingredients required to produce RUTF,” said Mark Moore, MANA’s founder and CEO.

Severe malnutrition claims the lives of one in five children under the age of five. But the disease is treatable with RUTF, a shelf-stable product made from peanuts, milk powder, oil, sugar, and a blend of nutrients. It costs less than $1 a day to treat a child with RUTF, and it’s highly effective, with a recovery rate of 90%.

MANA Nutrition, a nonprofit, currently produces three million packets of RUTF each day. The expansion is the culmination of two years of planning, engineering, and construction.

The packets it produces will be distributed through UNICEF and the UN World Food Program to people in Sudan, Burkina Faso, Haiti, and other areas where hunger is rampant. The new initiative will build on USAID’s ongoing nutrition support efforts in places like Gaza and Ethiopia.

Others attending Friday’s ceremony included U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton; Amy Towers, MANA’s board chair; and British philanthropist Sir Chris Hohn, who announced he’s making a $50 million investment in the company’s operation.