EXCLUSIVE: A Nutrition Bar that is Saving Lives

Lauren WaltersWill HauserWill Hauser and Lauren Walters – old friends – decided to start a new kind of food company: one that would make great products and help feed hungry children around the world.

They had similar backgrounds – both were the sons of two doctors and both decided on business careers instead of medicine. Both always believed that business and helping others were completely compatible.

Will, while an undergraduate at Harvard, led Harvard Student Agencies, the largest student-run business in the world, before going to Goldman Sachs. Lauren is an experienced entrepreneur, investor and advisor to companies and non-profits.

Both knew that working to reduce malnutrition would have a lasting impact on the lives of children. While NGOs and generous donors were making a difference, Will and Lauren believed that translating ordinary purchases into specific donations of meals could make an even greater impact on the lives of children.

Charity Spring scored an Exclusive interview with them.

Tell us about Two Degrees. What is the company all about?

There are over a billion hungry people in the world– some 200 million of them are children. We started Two Degrees because we believe that there’s a better way to help. We believe that everyday purchase decisions matter. The products that one buys reflect certain things about the consumer. We created a brand built on giving. For every Two Degrees food product you buy (currently a line of fruit and nut snack bars), we donate a meal to a hungry child. We believe that, with consumers as our engine, we can provide millions of meals to children around the world in need.

Your initiative is innovation at its best. How did you come up with this idea? 

I had spent some time in Africa– in Rwanda, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia and elsewhere, and saw malnutrition first hand. I was reminded that there are also hungry kids in the United States.Those experiences really stick with you. There’s not much in the world that is more tragic than a starving child. But I’m an entrepreneur, not a doctor. I decided to partner with an old (well, young– he was 23 and I was 57!) friend to address this problem. Seeing Blake Mycoskie speak also inspired me. The one-for-one model resonated with me a lot, but not with shoes. I wanted to help improve lives by helping to address the problem of hunger  - the foundation issue for the well being of kids. That’s why we chose to focus on food. For every food product we sell, we donate a meal to a child in need. It’s a simple model, yet our reach and impact is amazing.

Two Degrees Food distributes nutrition packs to the poor malnourished kids, how do you decide the location  of the distribution? 

Nutrition packs (also known as Ready to Use Therapeutic Food–RUTF) is just one type of meal that we donate. We work with a range of nonprofits around the world to create and then distribute meals to the children who need them most. In India, for example, we work with Akshaya Patra, an organization that provides hot, lentil and chickpea based meals to girls who go to school (a win-win). In Malawi, we donate RUTF to children with a diagnosis of severe acute malnutrition. As we grow, we’ll continue to work in more locations around the world. Currently we work in Malawi, Kenya, Somalia, Haiti, Colombia, Myanmar and also the United States.

Will, you are one of of the youngest social entrepreneurs today. Do you see yourself doing something else too in the near future? Something even more ingenious and breakthrough in the world of philanthropy? 

Haha- that’s very kind of you to say. I’m a social entrepreneur at heart and I think there are a variety of avenues that people can take to help in these huge global problems. I don’t know what I’ll do next to be honest, but I’ll be helping people. I want to inspire younger people to consider social entrepreneurship as well. Before working with Lauren, I worked in finance like many people do after college. It didn’t do it for me though. It felt empty. Two Degrees has taught me so much, and I hope to continue learning and building companies that give back.  

How can our readers help in making your noble cause a huge success? 

Two things: spread the word about our mission, and buy a Two Degrees bar! The more people who hear about us and try our bars, the more meals we can donate and the more lives will be saved. It’s grass roots efforts, and word of mouth that will help us donate millions of meals. We don’t have the marketing budgets of big food companies.  We rely on our customers to be brand ambassadors for us and share with their friends and family. Together, we believe this problem can be solved. www.twodegreesfood.com

Please do LIKE their Facebook Page here – TwoDegreesFood and go ahead, buy that bar. You can help in small ways. It is your chance to give back. Help them feed more malnourished kids. Plus you get a delicious bar too.
                                                              Buy a Bar  ——–>Give a meal
TwoDegrees Bar

The Rich Slum

source:flickeriver.comShe walks like the wind and speaks like a bird. She looks timid and physically challenged, but to her she is the queen of her slums. She passes along the huts that are dripping with water from the rain last night. Ladies are sitting outside their huts on the wet ground to get some fresh air. Black smoke from some huts fills the air indicating the preparation of lunch. Everyone recognizes her and pass her an occasional greeting. Her parents named her ‘Shehzadi’ , which means ‘the queen’. She loves to play with the little plastic bag that she carries around wherever she goes. Her little frock has innumerable patches and her hands are full of broken stuff that some rich kid had thrown away in trash. Her eyes are full of hope for a better future; her heart tells her that these days won’t last long. One day she will be able to see the ‘blue sky’ above, which is a dirty shade of grey right now. Some people of her locality blame the nearby factory for this mayhem but mostly and also Shehzadi know that it’s an indication from God that they are doomed in this lifetime for a sin committed in their previous birth.

Shehzadi doesn’t understand a lot of rituals that are practiced in the slums but she blindly follows them because they are passed on for generations together, of course she sneaks and fulfills some of her wishes, one of them being, owning a pair of footwear. Her grandfather tells her that it is a family ritual that doesn’t allow them to wear footwear, not knowing the real reason behind such obnoxious rituals-poverty. The people living in the slums have convinced themselves of living in the dirt and follow practices that provide them escape from the harsh reality. Shehzadi’s mother is a talented woman, she weaves excellent charpais and makes beautiful pottery products but the men in the house don’t permit her to do something that could earn two square meals for the family. Apparently if a women works for money, the whole family is condemned and doomed for the next 7 births. The slum is rich and prospering with cultures that were both prodigal and unacceptable. Of course Shehzadi is ambitious, but that is it. Even she doesn’t know the way out of this ash filled envelope that surrounds her. Every day she sees someone or the other die of coughing and spilling blood from their mouth. She gets scared but she has no choice.

source:nationalgeographic.comHer father promised her to send her to school, but as his health deteriorated he couldn’t fulfill his duties of providing two square meals, so there was no question of any school for her. Her mother blew into the small pipe each day to light up the chulah to make food, the ash from the wood and coal was making her asthmatic and Shehzadi sensed something foul.  She tried to find something in the garbage that could make her mother better. Each day she rummaged the garbage to find something to eat, to find some medicine for her mother. She had no knowledge of any medicine, but she had heard that eating those little pills improves people’s health. In that quest to find something pragmatic she found a pair of slippers that had two large holes in it. They were like ‘gold’ to her. She wore them and jumped around, she couldn’t feel the rough ground, she was wearing a pair of footwear. How amazing the feeling was. She kept it in the plastic bag she carried.

One afternoon a girl came in the slums. She looked like an angel. She was educated with curious eyes that looked and inspected every hut that she passed. She jumped around the water that was coagulated everywhere. The filth and the squalid environment made her sad. She talked to everyone around. Some people were apprehensive, they thought she had come to tell them to empty their houses and leave. This was turning into a regular trend in the area where large slums were converted into big industries. But she meant no harm. She came with a smile on her face and talked to them about their problems. After some time they understood that she was from a NGO and wanted to help them. Shehzadi flocked around the girl and demanded opening of a school for the children. She listened patiently and left.

Everyone is still waiting for her to come, she promised a better future, a school, some jobs and some happiness that could save them from this hell on Earth or as Shehzadi always called it “The Rich Slum”, the slum which is culturally rich and prosperous!