We Helped Launch a New Product for Food Pantries Nationwide

In the world of vitamins and supplements, NBTY is America’s leading manufacturer, marketer, distributor and retailer. The company has vertically integrated operations worldwide in every major market with over 25,000 SKUs under many well-known brands, including Nature’s Bounty®, Sundown®, American Health®, Ester-C®, Solgar®, MET-Rx®, Pure Protein®, Balance Bar®, Osteo Bi-Flex®, SISU®, Rexall®, Body Fortress®,  Puritan’s Pride®, Vitamin World®, Holland & Barrett®, GNC®, Physiologics®, and  De Tuinen®.

So why would this massive corporation want to partner with The River Fund for anything?

As it happens, NBTY’s MET-Rx division is a world-leading provider of engineered nutrition products—performance foods that have been specifically formulated with a precise nutrient profile to produce controlled metabolic effects. Targeting athletes and fitness-conscious individuals around the globe, the objective of this brand division is to deliver superior, wide-spectrum nourishment that promotes better health and physical conditioning in easy and convenient formats—including bars, shakes, powders and other supplements.

During a recent review of their manufacturing processes, Patrick Cornacchiulo, Vice President of Sports Nutrition, noticed the company was dumping huge volumes of product-trimmings from their protein-bar machines: As the protein bars were being cut to sizes for retail packaging, the trimmings and large amounts of surplus bars were being sent for disposal. Seeing an opportunity to both make the company greener and benefit needy families, Mr. Cornacchiulo began seeking ways of converting this unnecessary waste into a distributable value-food that the company could donate to the nationwide fight against hunger.

Given the huge size of the company, NBTY reached out to major players in America’s hunger relief system, including Feeding America, The Food Bank for New York City and several others. Not everyone in the emergency food arena was convinced that surplus sports-nutrition products could be packaged to make a great pantry-distribution item. Finally, Feed The Children (FTC), one of the largest international charities in the U.S., headquartered in Oklahoma City, agreed to be the nationwide distributor of MET-Rx Cares—as the new pantry product is called—and to work with the company on defining the best roll-out approach.

With the mission of “providing hope and resources for those without life’s essentials,” FTC has always used creative, comprehensive, integrated programs to combat hunger and poverty. Considering the similarity in our missions and our common systems-driven ideology, it’s no surprise that FTC has been a long-standing partner of The River Fund. The organization has supported us for many years in our objective to help households and their communities achieve lasting self-sufficiency, and they responded quickly to our appeals for help within the very first week after Sandy—providing hart-to-get items including truckloads of cleaning supplies that were desperately needed in the flood zones. Over the years, The River Fund had acquired the reputation among FTC’s operations team members as the “can-do” group in New York—rallying to support any initiative to combat hunger and poverty that presents itself.

When FTC approached us with MET-Rx’s concept, we immediately embraced it. NBTY and FTC were seeking an organization that performs direct-service to families in need to help launch the new product. Parceled in one-kilogram (approx. 2¼ lbs.) bags, the surplus bars and trimmings were beautifully packaged. Easy to use, appealing to children and offered in a meaningful size, it was a well-conceived addition to the range of goods we were already distributing to our clients: There was everything to love about the product. How could we refuse?

The launch was set for Tuesday, May 7, at our Mobile Site in Rufus King Park, Central Jamaica—one of the neediest communities we serve, where we have been delivering groceries to families for 20 years. Since that Service-Tuesday was just a few days before Mothers’ Day, MET-Rx brought out their star bodybuilding athletes and their Moms to help share the new product. FTC participated further by delivering specially-packed boxes of food and hygiene supplies for the event. More than four hundred families attended and benefitted from this special launch.

“We know that every mother wants her children to grow up healthy and strong, and to never experience hunger,” said Patrick Cornacchiulo. “At MET-Rx we believe in helping people get the nutrition they need with innovative sports nutrition products; MET-Rx Cares is our way of making that possible for the less fortunate by packaging bite-size bar pieces of our nutritious Big-100 Bars in 1,000 gram bags for local food pantries.”

“Families who live below the poverty line struggle to provide a basic, healthy diet,” said John Ricketts, of FTC, who came into New York specially for the launch. “We are very thankful to NBTY and the MET-Rx Cares program for helping to fill that void by generously donating their nutrition products, and we thank The River Fund for translating this vision into a real service to the local community.”

“From our perspective, as fighters on the front lines of hunger in dozens of New York City communities, food is the first defense in the battle against crippling poverty,” said Swami Durga Das, Executive Director of The River Fund New York. “We are very proud to partner with MET-Rx Cares—a program that will help us deliver better nutrition and enhance the dignity of the families and seniors we serve.”

Partnership with Met-Rx and Feed the ChildrenThe River Fund provided the ideal channel for these two major entities to launch a new product for Food Pantries nationwide.

Some 400 families lined up to get foodOver 400 families line up routinely to receive groceries from our Mobile Pantry in Rufus King Park, Central Jamaica. We've been going there for 20 years.

A star body-builder with his Mom and DadSince Mother's Day was appoaching, MET-Rx star bodybuilders came with their Moms to the launch of this special product for Food Pantries. This one brought Dad along too.

Boxes with Food and Hygiene Supplies plus Meal BarsFamilies received 1kg. bags of MET-Rx Meal Bars and specially packed boxes of food and hygiene supplies from Feed the Children. The River Fund also provided fresh produce and Baby Food.

The disabled wait in line with their aidesElderly people and others with physical challenges have their own line at our programs. Many come with their home health aides—and we serve them too.

Nutrition Bars aren't candy, but kids don't know that.Meal Bars are real food—even if kids think they're treats. Here, a MET-Rx athlete relates to Justin on something they can both appreciate.

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