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Buckner, MannaRelief make strides against malnutrition in the Valley

By Lauren Hollon Sturdy

When an 8-year-old child weighs what a healthy 6-year-old should, there’s a problem.

That was the case for a boy living in the Rio Grande Valley. Many children in destitute border communities, called colonias, suffer from malnutrition due to a lack of access to healthy food.

“Malnutrition can stunt children’s growth and brain development,” said Cynthia Casperson RN, director of health services for Buckner. “These issues prevent children from doing well in school, resulting in more dropouts, fewer job opportunities and an inability to provide for their families. It’s all linked to malnutrition.”

Buckner is working in the Rio Grande Valley to change people’s lives through case management at the Community Transformation Center in Peñitas, Texas. Last September, Buckner partnered with MannaRelief, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving orphans and children through real food nutritional support.

MannaRelief donated a year’s supply of their PhytoBlend product for a pilot program that currently serves 150 children whose families are clients of the CTC. A ¼ teaspoon dose of the tasteless powder supplement, mixed with food or any liquid, provides the essential daily vitamins and minerals a child needs.

Children in the program have received the supplement daily since September and the results are remarkable.

Before the supplement program began, children reported feeling tired all the time, according to CTC director Ricardo Brambila. Now, they say they’re feeling better – more alert in school and less fatigued when playing soccer.

“Before, we would see white spots on the children’s skin, and their skin was very dry,” Brambila said. “Their hair looked dull, and you would see that their nails were a little yellowish.”

Brambila said the kids’ skin is clearing up, their color is improving and their hair is shinier.

At the start of the program, many children were underweight and below the normal growth curve in height. One 12-year-old has grown an inch in five months. An 8-year-old went from 45 to 56 pounds, a healthy weight for his age.

The PhytoBlend product is unique from other supplements because the company sources its vitamins and minerals from real food rather than synthetic chemical vitamin and mineral compounds.

“This just further validates the value of real food vitamins and minerals in the diets of children,” said Sam Caster, founder of MannaRelief. “It allows us to turn whatever the children are willing to eat into the most nourishing thing they will ever eat.”

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