From Goleta, Vitamin Angels fights malnutrition around the world

Young children and pregnant women in underserved communities across the United States and around the world gain access to life-changing supplements through Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit headquartered in Goleta.

Vitamin Angels provides vital nutrition in the forms of supplements to nutritionally vulnerable populations in need. The organization and its network of locally based field partners aim to end malnutrition and break cycles of poverty by distributing vitamins and minerals to undernourished pregnant women and to children under the age of 5.

When it comes to a child’s development, the first few years are the most vital, and Vitamin Angels targets nutritional support in that “critical window”, says Chris Hortinela, associate director of sustainability at the nonprofit.

“When a child is developing, and this includes times in the womb up until about the age of 5, if they don’t get proper nutrition during that period of their life – it doesn’t matter if they have perfect nutrition later on – they won’t reach their full physical and mental potential in terms of development,” Hortinela said.

Vitamin Angels was founded in the wake of the Northridge earthquake that struck Southern California in 1994. Since then, the organization has expanded to 65 countries worldwide, and it now provides supplements to about 60 million mothers and young children every year. In 2020, it had around $130 million in revenue, making it the third-largest community service nonprofit based in the tai-county region, by revenue.

Vitamin Angels manufactures prenatal vitamins and vitamin A based on international standards established by the World Health Organization, Hortinela said. More than 95% of its cash comes from corporate donations, he said, and companies also donate vitamins based on the specifications set by Vitamin Angels. 

Vitamin Angels partners with more than 2,000 local nonprofits around the world that distribute the products, supplying those program partners, such as health centers and food banks, with training, education and vitamins. 

“We want to empower the local communities to respond to the populations,” Hortinela said. “That was key in the COVID response because they understood the context of what was needed din the community at that time.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vitamin Angels continued it spark among vulnerable populations that lack access to important nutrition and health service.s 

“We were fortunate to have committed corporate partners, and they di don’t cut back their support,” Hortinela said. “Actually, they increased it because they knew that in times like these, nutrition can make a huge impact.”

Vitamin Angels’ partners quickly adapted to the pandemic. Pregnant women received supplements at drive-through distributions in Iowa, while other communities provided door-to-door outreach for vitamin A distribution. 

By Brooke Holland

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