My name is Muhammad Rizal. I’m working with Mercy Corps as the Marketing Officer for a nutrition program called Kedai Balitaku in Aceh Province, Indonesia. Kedai Balitaku is an innovative project to promote nutritious food for children under five. At the same time, Kedai Balitaku also offers a new avenue of economic opportunity for low-income families.
Last week was the best week of the program since we started helping vendors promote and sell nutritious foods at the beginning of February. In the middle of a bookkeeping training for the program's food vendors, one vendor reported that a baby had gotten better within a week of beginning to eat food from Kedai Balitaku.
Doubting the story a little, the next day I went to met the baby’s mom, Mrs. Wita. She said that her baby was very weak and underweight, and wouldn’t eat the deep-fried food she was preparing for the rest of the family. When she heard about the Kedai Balitaku program during a Mercy Corps nutrition education campaign in her village, she tried it out and found her child would eat a whole bowl of the wholesome porridge. She was really surprised to find her baby gained weight and could walk again after eating this more nutritious food. Now, she orders food regularly from the Kedai Balitaku vendor near by her house, whose name is Mrs. Syarifah.
Mrs. Syarifah is one of 12 vendors recruited by Mercy Corps Aceh to run Kedai Balitaku businesses. She is a tsunami survivor, and now lives in a small house donated by the Asian Development Bank with her husband and two children.
Before joining the program, Mrs. Syarifah worked for a small restaurant earning US$2 a day and her husband earns US$88 monthly working as a security officer in a private hospital. She said that her husband’s salary is far from enough to meet their personal needs, but last month she got so much profit from selling nutritious foods through Kedai Balitaku that she was able to purchase a mobile phone. Mrs. Syarifah is currently receiving orders from neighbors and preschools around her house, while working hard to manage her quickly-growing small business.
Kedai Balitaku vendors know that the nutritious food business is a good prospect here in Aceh, where there are only a few such businesses and many people who need help. Based on a survey published by the Health Agency of Indonesia, 10.7 percent of children in Aceh were severely malnourished and 15.8 percent of them were moderately malnourished.
Just during February — the program's first month of operation here — Kedai Balitaku vendors have already sold 14,060 portions of healthy food. Here's to more healthy growth!