Actor Ryan Devlin & friends create recipe to help world hunger

“Sometimes your journey takes you to a new destination – that's how the spark for the idea came about for This Bar Saves Lives,” said actor Ryan Devlin

Some may know Devlin as the host of MTV’s hit reality series, “Are You the One?” set to air its fourth season in June. Others may recognize him from his acting roles in “Jane The Virgin,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Cougar Town,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Law and Order: SVU” just to name a few. He’s also co-creator and executive producer of “Idiotest,” a game show currently in its third season on GSN.

What fans may not know is that Devin is co-founder and CEO of This Bar Saves Lives, a company that created healthy snack bars with a social mission: for every one of their products sold, the company donates a packet of life-saving food to a child in need around the world.

In 2008, Devlin and fellow actor, Todd Grinnell, were asked by their mutual friend, Cori Stern who was doing humanitarian work in Liberia, if they would like to get involved in raising funds to rebuild a bridge that was so in need of repair, that villagers couldn't get to market and children couldn't get to school. The men accepted the challenge and raised $30,000 for the intiative. The following year, Devlin and Grinnell traveled to Liberia to check on the progress of the construction project and while there, they visited a few refugee clinics. It was then that they witnessed the devastating effects that severe malnutrition has on children as some were even close to death. But they also saw what was being done to help them.

“It was overwhelming. I had never been exposed to anything like that growing up in the U.S. and even in my travels through Europe. I had never seen that kind of life and death struggle of malnutrition. It was shocking, and mostly it was sad to see these children who are just small kids that shouldn't have to be battling with such a treatable, preventable affliction,” said Devlin.
Through conversations with people who were running the clinics, treating the children, and assisting the mothers, Devlin and Grinnell heard about Plumpy’Nut®, a nutrient-rich food packet that offered the best treatment response. They learned that three packets of Plumpy’Nut a day for seven weeks takes a child from near death to certain survival.

“The problem was there just wasn't enough of it. It's relatively inexpensive in our terms, and relatively expensive in their terms. That's when Todd and I started thinking about a sustainable way to get food aid to children in need and we became energized by that prospect,” said Devlin.

By 2011, Devlin, Grinnell, actor Ravi Patel, and actress Kristen Bell had collaborated to start what has become, This Bar Saves Lives.

“It began as many ideas do, as just a seed of an idea. Todd and I started making granola bars in our kitchens, and playing around with different flavors. We were researching and working on philanthropic partnerships and it began to take shape over the course of a year-and-a-half. We were working with different philanthropic partners, chefs, nutritionists, and food scientists as we were essentially launching two businesses at once – one on the philanthropic side, and one on the product side,” Devlin explained.

“As Kristin would say, she ate her body weight in test bars, or more so, as we were trying to refine a product people are excited about because that's what we built the business model on. If you only buy our bar once, you're only helping with one packet of food. We needed to launch a company that was going to become a staple on people's grocery shopping lists,” he said.

Since 2013, This Bar Saves Lives has donated just short of one million “life-saving packets," an umbrella term they use for the variety of products that battle malnutrition that are manufactured by other companies. In addition to Plumpy’Nut used for the treatment of severely malnourished children, This Bar Saves Lives donates other food packets including Nutributter®, a product given to undernourished children under two-years-old to prevent stunting — a condition which affects a child’s growth and health throughout their life.

“There are also other nutrition packets that we can give to mothers while they are breastfeeding in order to help get nutrients to their children in that way, which is usually considered the best way for a child to get nutrition,” explained Devlin.

Devlin emphasizes that while This Bar Saves Lives did create their own new line of snack bars, it did not create a new type of aid.

“We sell incredible snacks here in the states in order to help deliver food aid that is already existing and proven, and the channels of delivery are already existing and proven. We have confidence that when somebody purchases our bar here, they know that they are sending food aid to where it is needed most through proven channels and completely verifiable and transparent non-profit organizations,” said Devlin. “I hope it adds a layer of confidence for consumers here knowing that the impact they are having abroad is a measurable and transparent one.”

This Bar Saves Lives has established partnerships with Save the Children; Action Against Hunger; Edesia Global Nutrition Solutions; Second Mile Haiti; FIMRC, Meds & Food for Kids; and Ananse Village. As a result, the snack bar company has been able to provide donations to Haiti, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, Nepal, Guatemala, and Cambodia.

“We rely on our giving partners to guide where the food aid goes. They know where there is the most drastic need and we are happy to let them do their jobs,” Devlin said.

Patel, Grinnell, and Devlin had been running the company since its inception, and Devlin was recently appointed CEO. While each had handled the duties of their own departments, it became increasing apparent as the organization grew that it was time for one person to take on the lead role to handle strategic hires and other related functions. Bell and Stern serve on the company’s board of advisors.

With a product line that includes an assortment of all-natural health bars, This Bar Saves Lives keeps their marketing light and friendly with such descriptors as “non-GMO, gluten free, fair trade, bee friendly... and about every other awesome thing you can think of. These give-back snacks are guaranteed to make you happy.”

“We try not to motivate our customers by guilt or by fear, or sadness. We try to motivate by optimism and by impact. Most of the stories we tell are of children that are recovering or have recovered and that are now off playing, and singing, and back in school because of the support that people have given through This Bar Saves Lives and our non-profit partners,” said Devlin.

This Bar Saves Lives products are currently available in select Target, Whole Foods, Starbucks, and other retailers. They are increasing their presence in Target with expansion into some 1,000 stores and adding to their product offering with “This Kid Saves Lives,” a line bars free of any nut allergens.

“The impact coming from this new expansion is going to be massive. The amount of food aid and the amount of lives that we're going to be able to affect around the world is just staggering,” said Devlin, who along with his partners, is looking forward to the future of This Bar Saves Lives and the number of children who will be saved from the devastating effects of malnutrition.

For more information on This Bar Saves Lives, visit:

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