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Students Think Plumpy'Nut Challenge Can Match Ice Bucket

02/28/2015 03:01 pm ET | Updated Apr 30, 2015

We all remember the Ice Bucket Challenge from last summer and its amazing success, raising money for research to cure ALS. What if that same spirit could be used to save children from starvation around the world?

Some University of Rhode Island (URI) students think it can. After they visited the non-profit organization Edesia, which produces life-saving food for infants, they came up with a plan.

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The #MakeYourGreenCount Plumpy'Nut Team from the University of Rhode Island visiting Edesia: Sergio Suhett '15, Kylie Rice '15, David St. Amant '16, Kimberly DeLande '15 (Nora Lewis/University of Rhode Island)

They are launching the Plumpy'Nut Challenge leading up to St. Patrick's Day. It's called #MakeYourGreenCount and you are asked to donate $5 between now and St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, and challenge ten friends to do the same for a total of $55. That amount equals the cost of a box of Plumpy'Nut, a peanut paste that saves from children from deadly malnutrition in the developing world.

It's catching on already. The students have gotten support from the community including schools and businesses such as Tara's Tipperary Tavern, the oldest Irish pub in Rhode Island. You are encouraged to join and make a video about the Challenge. The donations go to Edesia, which is based in Providence, Rhode Island.

Edesia produces Plumpy'Nut and similar foods, which are used by relief agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP). For example, Edesia recently produced Nutributter, which is being distributed by WFP inside war-torn Syria. Plumpy'doz, produced by Nutriset in France, is also used by WFP in Syria. Small children are desperate for food inside Syria. They are at tremendous risk of developing malnutrition.

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Ten-year-old Omar from Derayya is still recovering from heart surgery that he got in the Damascus Children's Hospital. The volunteers at the clinic say that Omar is progressing steadily and gaining weight with the help of Plumpy'doz. (WFP/Dina ElKassaby)

Malnutrition causes lasting physical and mental damage in children, or death. So it's vital that children caught in war zones, natural disasters or extreme poverty receive foods like Plumpy'Nut. Time is crucial. Malnutrition can take hold very quickly.

URI staff Kate O'Malley and Professor Regina Bell of the Harrington School of Communications and Media, recruited students to develop the Challenge. Part of their inspiration came from Irish history.

Ireland has a tragic history of famine, one they do not want repeated anywhere. Children must be spared from the deadly ravage of malnutrition. Donations are always needed by Edesia to produce the life-saving food. Heidi Reed of Edesia explains,

"Donations always have impact on our work, no matter the time of year. They help us reduce our costs so that we can reach more children with each order. We are also raising funds to build our new factory in North Kingstown, which will help us reach 2 million malnourished children each year. "

This St. Patrick's Day and month can be something unique in history. The celebration will still be green, but one that matters for millions of children.

For each donation can save a life. You can get involved with the #MakeYourGreenCount Plumpy'Nut Challenge by visiting their facebook or twitter pages. Or you can donate online.

You can read an interview with the URI students here.