Former Landrieu aide honored for feeding hungry children

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A lot of Capitol Hill newbies head to Washington wide-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to change the world. Former staffer Mark Moore actually did it, and is being honored for his work to help children suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

The 47-year-old Michigan native and former legislative fellow for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) created MANA Nutrition (MANA stands for “Mother Administered Nutritive Aid”), which produces small packets of ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). Contracts with USAID and UNICEF have helped get the mixtures of peanut butter, milk and vitamins into the hands of more than 2 million kids in developing countries. MANA Nutrition can produce as much as 46,000 pounds of the packets daily — enough to feed 1,500 kids for six weeks.

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Moore was taking notes at an Appropriations Committee hearing while working for Landrieu back in 2007 when he first learned about RUTF. “I still remember it,” he says in a phone interview. “I walked into the Hugh Scott Room and there were so many staffers there sitting with their yellow pads and someone from UNICEF was talking about therapeutic food. I thought this was amazing.”

“I remember going home and telling my wife and saying I saw this video of this peanut butter stuff and it was amazing, I was shocked.”

Now Moore’s Georgia-based nonprofit is being honored by the United States Global Leadership Coalition as a “smart power innovation.”

The MANA Nutrition CEO, who spent nearly a decade working in eastern Uganda, says the combination of experiences in Africa and at the Capitol helped shape his vision: “What the Hill represents I think in its best moments is to scale change by making the rules.”

Even, if at times, it seemed like he wasn’t making a difference amid the red tape of Washington, he said with a laugh: “As a staffer you realize, I don’t make rules, I just go to meetings!”

He credits his time in the nation’s capital, as well as nearly a decade working in eastern Uganda, with helping him to start the organization.

“Without my D.C. chapter I would never have done this.”