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Food carts on a whole new scale

Indonesia, December 20, 2012

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Jakarta's slums are "food deserts," where few stores, high prices and inadequate kitchens leave families with little access to fresh and nutritional options. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Jennifer Dillan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Cheap street food is an unhealthy, but necessary staple. Almost always deep-fried, these salty or sugary foods are often prepared in unsanitary conditions and don't provide the nutrients that young children need — especially crucial in their younger years. Photo: Jennifer Dillan/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Christine Tye/Mercy Corps  </span>
    In 2009, Mercy Corps decided to tackle the issue of malnutrition in a new way: colorful food carts that bring healthy food directly to those who need it most — children under 5. Playful music and menus at low eye levels quickly made KeBAL a favorite with the littlest customers. Photo: Christine Tye/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Jennifer Dillan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Affordable meals include rice porridge fortified with fresh vegetables and chicken. The most popular snack is the 10-cent gelatin pop, which — unlike mass-market options — swaps artificial flavors for real fruits like mango, strawberry and melon. Photo: Jennifer Dillan/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    KeBAL food carts also offer a new avenue of employment for men and women in the slums, who learn proper hygiene and sanitary preparation techniques to prevent illness. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Greg Briggs for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Gun went from driving a pedicab for $3 (USD) a day to earning $7 (USD) as a KeBAL cart vendor. He uses his role to teach kids about healthy eating habits and hand washing with the water and soap he carries with on his cart. Photo: Greg Briggs for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Fitria Rinawati/Mercy Corps  </span>
    After a successful first year, Mercy Corps partnered with MBA students at MIT to move KeBAL from pilot nutrition project to a business with growth potential. The students defined a strong brand identity to raise awareness in communities — and created characters to represent the four essential food groups to kids. Photo: Fitria Rinawati/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Fitria Rinawati/Mercy Corps  </span>
    MIT students also suggested consolidating food preparation at central cooking centers to streamline costs, monitor quality and increase volume. "MIT really was the turning point for KeBAL, making it into an actual business," remarked Sean Granville-Ross, our regional program director in Southeast Asia. Funding from the Vibrant Village Foundation helped turn these ideas into a reality over the next two years. Photo: Fitria Rinawati/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Caitlin Carlson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Nutritional science company DSM took notice of KeBAL's growing success. Indonesia represented an underserved market where chronic issues of malnutrition would allow the company to use their business expertise in nutrition to advance their goal of improving health. Photo: Caitlin Carlson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Starting this year, DSM is partnering with Mercy Corps to expand KeBAL and its offerings. We'll develop even more fortified, nutritional food options using DSM's nutritional knowledge. Photo: Thatcher Cook for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Jennifer Dillan/Mercy Corps  </span>
    DSM's business resources will provide a boost in KeBAL's marketing and promotion, expanding to new areas, new customers and new partners, like schools, to help even more kids get access to healthy food. Photo: Jennifer Dillan/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Greg Briggs for Mercy Corps  </span>
    Strengthening the franchise model means more entrepreneurs will join KeBAL, which will not only employ more people but expand the reach of services. Photo: Greg Briggs for Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Fitria Rinawati/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Along with Rabobank Foundation — which is helping us source ingredients from local farmers and boosting their income in the process — DSM and KeBAL are poised to reach hundreds of thousands of kids on a daily basis in the next five years. Learn more on Global Envision: Mercy Corps and DSM leaders talk about the new partnership and plans for the future Photo: Fitria Rinawati/Mercy Corps

In Jakarta, our teams found that 17% percent of children under 5 are malnourished, while 12% are overweight. With funding from the Vibrant Village Foundation, we've been working for three years to make healthy food available in the city's most poverty-stricken neighborhoods through food carts known as Kedai Balitaku (KeBAL), "My Child's Cafe."

A new partnership with DSM, a global micronutrient company, will provide expertise and resources to take KeBAL to the next level.

Read more about the partnership on Global Envision, our sister blog exploring market solutions to poverty.