Vitamin group targets malnutrition in UK kids

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vitamin angels, Vitamin, Nutrition, Malnutrition

A US-based vitamin charity is spreading its reach to the UK, where it aims to team up with stakeholders in the dietary supplement and nutritional food world in efforts to address child malnutrition in the UK and worldwide.

Vitamin Angels, which was founded 15 years ago by a supplement industry veteran, aims to reduce child mortality by delivering nutritional supplements to millions of undernourished children around the world.

In the United Sates, Vitamin Angels has come to be known as the humanitarian arm of the natural products industry. Ingredient firms, product manufacturers and retailers partner with the organisation to provide donations of cash – often as a proportion of sales – or goods in kind, which are then delivered directly to the field.

According to research on donation patterns across Europe, the UK was found to be one of the most generous nations, said Vitamin Angels’ senior VP Jess Markel at a launch event in London yesterday, held in collaboration with PR firm Fuel.

“Around 27 million people across the UK are making donations, and we felt this was an environment that could be positive if we can get our story out there,”​ he said.

Nutrition programmes

Vitamin Angels works in three main fields: Areas of poverty where there is no access to good food; areas hit by war or civil strife; and areas affected by natural disasters, where immediate needs are shelter, medicine and nutrition.

The group works on both domestic nutrition and international programmes to help provide basic nutrition to undernourished children. One of its key programmes in developing countries is Operation 20/20, which delivers Vitamin A (at a cost of $0.25 per child per year) to prevent blindness in children.

Another programme, adopted in both developed and developing countries, is called Thrive to Five and aims to deliver key nutrients and multivitamins to children under the age of five.

Child malnutrition in the UK

Markel said that Vitamin Angels will be studying the nutritional needs of children in the UK in order to understand where the biggest needs lie.

“We need to look at the population to understand its problems and the size of them. We’ll also be relying on our domestic partnerships for guidance,”​ he told industry executives.

The problem of malnourishment in UK children is more widespread than might be expected for a developed country.

Dr Sam Everington, a GP in Tower Hamlets, East London, said that estimates indicate over half of children in the area are malnourished, suffering from deficiencies including vitamin D and iron.

“We have an absolutely massive problem right next to the city of London,”​ he told the BBC’s Today programme this morning. “[In big parts of our communities] it is very similar to what you would find in developing countries.”

How to partner

Firms in the dietary supplement and nutritional food industries can partner with Vitamin Angels for contributions either through product donations (key needs are multivitamins, prenatal supplements, vitamin A and vitamin C) or through monetary support (donating a percentage of sales, or setting up a $0.25 per sku promotion, for example).

Beyond the aid delivered to target populations, partnerships such as these provide an industry-relevant corporate social responsibility activity and also deliver business benefits, explained Markel.

According to research conducted in the US by Cone Inc, around 80 per cent of consumers are likely to switch from one brand to another of similar price and quality if it is associated with a good cause. UK data from a Business in the Community study shows that just under 80 per cent of consumers would be more likely to buy a product that supports a cause, and 66 per cent would switch brands to support a cause.

I was very impressed by the story Vitamin Angels had to tell about their activities to date,”​ said executive director of the UK Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) Graham Keen, who attended yesterday’s presentation.

Corporate Social Responsibility is high on the agenda of most companies today and the activities of Vitamin Angels, and other similar organisations, are laudable. They all meet a serious need and do a tremendous job. Several HFMA member companies are working very well with charities like International Health Partners and we will be discussing whether Vitamin Angels should be considered as a potential recommended partner for our members,”​ he told NutraIngredients.com.

For more information, visit http://www.vitaminangels.org/​ or contact Gillian Waddell at Fuel PR on +44 (0)20 7498 8211 or by e-mail on gillian’at’fuelrefuel.com.

Related topics: Suppliers, Vitamins & premixes

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