How Vitamin Angels, SmartyPants (and YOU) are helping save lives

by Alex Kim

Have you taken your vitamins today?

We can all probably agree that including a daily supplement as part of your self-care routine can help support good health.

What you may not realize is that by taking SmartyPants Vitamins, you’re also helping improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

In fact:

For every bottle sold, we make a one-for-one nutrient grant to Vitamin Angels, a public health organization putting life-saving nutrients into the hands of under-served mothers and children across the globe.

We’ve been partnering with Vitamin Angels since the sale of our very first bottle.

And thanks to YOU, we’ve now made more than 13 million nutrient grants!

Vitamin Angels and SmartyPants nutrient grants

Those nutrient grants help provide prenatal multivitamins to pregnant women and vitamin A and deworming tablets to young children at risk of malnutrition worldwide.

“Having SmartyPants commit to giving back right from the inception of their business speaks volumes about their commitment to improving nutrition, not only for consumers, but for everyone around the world,” said Howard Schiffer, founder and president/CEO of Vitamin Angels.

Globally, one in nine people are undernourished, according to the United Nations (UN).

For children under five, it’s a life-threatening problem because approximately 45 percent of all childhood deaths (3.1 million) are either directly or indirectly related to undernutrition or malnutrition.

How Vitamin Angels is helping

Vitamin Angels was founded in 1994 and gave more than 100,000 vitamins to families in need during their first year.

The organization now reaches more than 70 million children and mothers in need annually in more than 70 countries, including underserved communities across the United States. They were recently ranked among the top 4 percent of charities evaluated by Charity Navigator.

By providing malnourished women with access to prenatal multivitamins, Vitamin Angels is helping to reduce infant mortality rates and giving babies a healthier start to life.

Their goal is to eliminate newborn mortality due to vitamin deficiency by 2030.

“If you think about how much nutrient-rich food a [pregnant] woman (in a developing nation) needs for nine months and what it would take to get that food to her village, how she would store it, just all the challenges. Then, you think about a bottle of prenatals. You can bring that in a backpack anywhere in the world, and what a difference that will make. That to me, that’s an amazing thing,” said Schiffer.

How Vitamin Angels is helping

Quick Facts About Vitamins Angels

  • They are the largest single organization in the world doing vitamin interventions as a non-governmental organization (NGO) by working through a network of 1,600 local field partner organizations around the world.

  • Vitamin Angels reaches 70 million babies, children and moms in the United States and around the world annually.

  • It only takes two doses of vitamin A per year to combat the effects of vitamin A deficiency and help fight off life-threatening illnesses for children in developing countries.

  • They reach four moms with prenatal multivitamins every minute. Their prenatal multivitamins include folate, vitamin A, Zinc, vitamin D, iron, iodine and others for a total of 15 different vitamins and minerals that are needed to meet daily nutritional requirements of pregnant women.

  • Worms threaten 266 million children worldwide, and Vitamin Angels is reaching 27 million children globally with deworming tablets.

  • Deworming children with Albendazole allows them to better absorb nutrients and combat malnutrition, illness and stunted development.

  • Vitamin Angels wants to eliminate newborn mortality due to vitamin deficiencies by 2030.

So what exactly defines malnutrition versus undernutrition?

Malnutrition is not getting enough of the right foods to eat and involves a dietary deficiency.

Someone can eat too much of the wrong food and still get enough calories to survive but be malnourished.

When people are getting enough calories, but it’s the wrong calories, especially if it’s highly processed foods and sugar saturated foods it can cause problems like obesity and juvenile diabetes. This is called overnutrition.

Undernutrition is when someone is not getting sufficient vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat.

In some countries both exist together.

Vitamin Angels provides life-saving nutrients to children around the world

What are some of the health risks from malnutrition?

In the developing world, lack of nutrients and lack of the right nutrients can result in:
  • Stunting: This is impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition along with repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Wasting: This is when children have a very low weight for their height and is typically the result of significant food shortage or disease, according to UNICEF.

  • Low birth weight (LBW): Babies born weighing less than 5.5 lbs.

  • Small for gestational age (SGA): Newborns whose birth weight is less than the 10th percentile for gestational age. Both LBW and SGA are associated with increased risk of infant mortality.

  • Vitamin deficiency diseases like anemia

  • Potential impaired intellectual development

What’s causing malnutrition?

People often assume that the reason malnutrition exists is poverty, but it’s not only that. A number of other issues can impact access to food with the right nutrients. For example:

  • Lack of knowledge: The importance of eating a nutrient-rich and varied diet may seem obvious, but for some communities even this basic information is not yet widely known.

  • Climate change: This includes the effects of droughts and flooding, can impact local agriculture and growing crops.

  • Environment: Growing or accessing nutritious foods can be limited by location; for example, diverse crops don’t grow at high altitudes and land for crops is scarce on small islands.

  • Natural disasters: Schiffer explained that every time there’s an earthquake, flood or hurricane in our country or around the world, it’s almost always followed by some kind of malnutrition or under nutrition because to get people the right food, especially in remote areas, gets increasingly difficult.

  • Civil strife and war: This can delay supply chains and/or displace vulnerable populations.

  • Discrimination: Some communities face discrimination making access to basic services a challenge.

Malnutrition in the U.S.

It’s a common misconception that problems like food deserts, malnutrition and infant mortality are major issues happening only in developing countries.

According to infant mortality rates by the CIA, the U.S. ranks 56 in order of countries with the lowest rate.

That number is behind Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. The numbers are equally alarming with maternal mortality rates.

That’s why Vitamin Angels works in every state in the U.S.

Be it in our own backyard or developing countries, malnutrition exists because there are people everywhere with limited access to nutrient-rich foods.

Thanks to Vitamins Angels (and you!) more and more people around the world now have access to improved nutrition and the chance for a happier and healthier tomorrow.

“If we do anything great in our lifetime, that’s what we want to achieve," said Schiffer.

"With good nutrition comes the opportunity for a better education and increased life-long earning potential. As communities improve, everyone’s opportunity increases. Until you get proper nutrition in there, it’s really, really difficult to get ahead. This is not the only answer but it’s one of the answers.” 

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Alex Kim