“Hi friends! Come to My Child's Café… choose and get various healthy snacks here,” said a catchy jingle that played during over the grand opening of My Child Café and its healthy kitchen in West Jakarta's impoverished Tegal Alur neighborhood. About 750 young children from the area — most of them five years old or younger — attended the event with their mothers. The newest expansion of Mercy Corps' successful My Child’s Café program — or, in the Indonesian language, Kedai Balitaku (KeBal) — was opened by the Deputy Mayor of West Jakarta major.
“This shows good initiative and innovation from Mercy Corps. Now people in slum areas like Tegal Alur have access to healthy food to improve their nutrition and, at the same time, the program provides further opportunity for people in the local community to improve their income through selling this healthy food,” the Deputy Mayor said.
This grand opening in Tegal Alur is an expansion from KeBal's previous pilot project in Tugu Utara, a poor neighborhood in North Jakarta. KeBal provides nutritious and affordable meals and snacks for areas where families cannot often afford to eat heathy food.
And, as the Deputy Mayor mentioned, the program is also encouraging people in the local community to participate in local entrepreneurship opportunities such as operating a food cart or preparing food in a neighborhood kitchen. As of now, three local vendors have signed up to operate carts in Tegal Alur, but there is a need for more vendors in order to fulfill the needs — and already-high demand — of the community for affordable, nutritious ready-made food.
Yuli is one of the new vendors. Before joining the KeBal program, she was working as washing lady and had a very low income. ”I had a very unpredictable income when I was washing clothes but now, as a KeBal vendor, I earn around 40,000 Indonesian rupiah (about US$4.50) per day," the 35-year-old small businesswoman explains. "And, right now, I'm only selling KeBal snacks twice a day for two or three hours at a time — so, if I expand my operations, I could earn an even more steady income. It’s really helpful for my family.”
Sri Supartini — the mother of a four-year-old daughter and a new customer of the KeBal program — said, “ We are so happy that KeBal is here in our neighborhood. Now we can help our daughter grow up healthier through nutritious and affordable food.”
For the grand opening, Mercy Corps distributed more than 2,000 portions of KeBal food to neighborhood families. There were performances by local entertainment troupes, traditional Jaipong and Betawi dances, and other activities that showed the importance of better child nutrition.
So far in Tegal Alur, KeBal is getting rave reviews.