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Vitamin Angels premieres online documentary to broaden its message

By Hank Schultz , 26-Mar-2014

Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit organization that has delivered millions of servings of vitamin A and other vitamins to at-risk children and mothers worldwide, has premiered an online documentary that shows some of the communities the organization serves and what it sometimes has to go through to get there.

 

The film is a compendium of footage from three young filmmakers selected in collaboration with the National Film Festival for Talented Youth to document their experiences learning firsthand about the effects of undernutrition and what Vitamin Angels is doing to address that critical issue. According to Vitamin Angels, 190 million children are vitamin A deficient worldwide, and this deficiency is the leading cause of blindness.

Footage from India, Peru, US

In the film, Joel McCarthy, 22, tells the story of how Vitamin Angels is changing the lives of children in Peru, where the organization distributes multivitamins to children under five and prenatal vitamins to four villages in the High Andes outside of Pisac. Caleb Slain, 21, documents the problem of undernutrition in the northeastern state of Nagaland in India as part of  Vitamin Angels' vitamin A program for at-risk children under five. Alex Bohs, 23, shoots his footage and interviews across three states in the US, which isn't exempt from the need for children's multivitamin and prenatal distributions.

The Nagaland footage in particular demonstrates the remote nature of some of the populations that Vitamin Angels serves.  Dramatic footage of four-wheel-drive vehicles slithering up muddy tracks and clinging to mountainsides emphasizes the isolated nature of the province, which borders Myanmar.  In the Peru segment, Slain shows how the population has almost nothing to eat in their high-altitdue home besides potatoes, leading to widespread undernutrition.  A mother is quoted as saying her older children had trouble walking, but her youngest child walked at age one after she received prenatal vitamins.

Broadening the message

I

n the past, Vitamin Angels has interacted primarily with the natural produts and dietary supplements industry, from which it has received cash and in-kind donations.  Vitamin Angels has been incredibly successful in mobilizing the dietary supplements industry, a community that  founder Howard Schiffer describes as “shockingly generous”.

“The generosity is pretty extreme, and there is a real emotional connection,” Schiffer said.

But the time has come to broaden the message.  Schiffer has said that the organization, which has never worked as an adjunct of a government, could reach “50 to 100 million children easily” if it had the funding.

“We hope this film will educate viewers about the life-threatening problem of micronutrient deficiencies and what Vitamin Angels is doing to reach children around the world,” Schiffer said.

“Our goal is for the film to provide a unique and creative way to communicate the impact of our work in order to both inspire and recognize our core base of support within the natural products industry, and also raise awareness for Vitamin Angels’ mission on a global scale,” Kim Saam, marketing communications manager for Vitamin Angels told NutraIngredients-USA.

“Vitamin Angels will always remain tremendously appreciative and loyal to our supporters within the natural products space; it’s where we got our start and where we continue to derive much of our support. At the same time, we know that with a greater public awareness of the need for vitamin supplementation we can continue to expand our programs and reach more at-risk children with the lifesaving and life changing vitamins they so desperately need,” she said.

“In summary, this is not a shift in focus, it’s a reflection of our improved efforts to communicate our mission.”

The film, as well as the directors’ cuts, can be viewed at www.asupportingrole.com .

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