He knows first-hand what hunger feels like and looks like. "You had kids who were four or five with no parents to take care of them," he says. "I was old enough to fight for myself, but when I saw kids in these long lines, trying to get food, I wept. You want to be a big brother, but you're hungry too."

Sponsored by a church group, he arrived in the United States in 2001 and lived with a host family until he found a job as a shipping supervisor at a Coca-Cola Company. Laid off during the economic downturn, he was thrilled when Edesia called with an offer.

"If I can be part of making a product that is giving malnourished children a chance to see another day, there's nothing better I can do," he said.

His days scavenging for food are never far from his mind. At home, he often sifts through his garbage: Why did you throw out this food? he asks his wife. It's rotten, she says.

He thinks about those hungry kids getting jostled in line at the refugee camp and how they would kill — literally — for that spoiled head of lettuce at the bottom of his trash can.

"That feeling I have tears you apart," he says. "I only wish we could produce more."

That could happen soon. UNICEF is auditing Edesia to determine if it meets stringent quality standards for ready-to-use supplements. If the company passes, it could soon be making this life-saving food for the largest children's relief organization in the world.

Elizabeth Rau can be reached at erau1@verizon.net.

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