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"Is it healthy food or not?"

Indonesia, July 29, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Piva Bell/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Noni, one of the teachers at the Aisyiyah Suka Ramai Kindergarten in Aceh, shows what a healthy lunch looks like. Photo: Piva Bell/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Piva Bell/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Children at the Aisyiyah Suka Ramai Kindergarten learn about better nutrition through storytelling. Photo: Piva Bell/Mercy Corps

“Why, lately, has my child been commenting on the food that I cook, asking if is it healthy food or not?” was a mother's question. Yulaita, the principal of Aisyiyah Suka Ramai Kindergarten in Aceh recalls hearing the question — she's also been hearing similar question from her child. In fact, it seems like — recently — the students of that kindergarten have become really aware on what kind of food their mothers cook for them.

This kindergarten is one of nine kindergartens in Aceh that are are the focus of Mercy Corps' children's nutrition training, part of the Kedai Balitaku (KeBal) program, which means "My Child's Café" in Indonesian. And since the KeBal team has put lots of hard work to encourage children five and under eat healthy food and mothers to cook healthy food, my smile just gets wider, knowing that local parents have come to teachers and asked questions because their children are advising them about healthy food.

The teachers didn't ignore those questions. Yulaita and other teachers gladly informed them about the nutrition training held by the KeBal program at their school, and even transferred their knowledge about healthy food to these parents.

For Yulaita, who has been teaching in various kindergartens since 1980, this nutrition training program with KeBal is really special and she is very enthusiastic, since she never had this kind of experience before. The good news is that the parents really support Yulaita, the school principal, to keep maintaining the school's collaboration with KeBal in conducting the nutrition training. And because of it, the parents are encouraged to cook healthy food and send healthy lunches to school for their children.

Nona, one of the teachers who is helping Mercy Corps monitor the eating behavior of Aisyiyah Suka Ramai's students told me that, besides the games, the children really like the story telling session of the training. They talked about it a lot.

Without asking, these children have also taught the new students about healthy food, and encouraged their new friends to eat healthy food like them. This has made Yulaita really happy, and she hopes that in the future Mercy Corps will maintain the collaboration with her kindergarten.

Since the program began ten months ago, Mercy Corps' KeBal program in Aceh has reached 1,023 kindergarten students and 688 adults, as well as promoting healthy food to other 1,420 children. Counting nutrition trainings and customers reached by KeBal's food cart operators, we've served a total of 7,318 people. I am sure that with KeBal, more children and parents in Aceh will continue caring more about eating healthy food.