I believe that helping people to sell nutritious foods for children is the best strategy to ensure sustainability. Since February 2010, Mercy Corps' local nutrition program — called Kedai Balitaku — has promoted and advertised healthy food and child nutrition to more than 5,000 children under five in 100 kindergartens in Banda Aceh and Aceh Besar. We are proud to announce three big successes this month from the program:
- Vendors are using their profits to expand their businesses: Four months ago, Mrs. Harlina was unemployed, but now she has earned an average of US$50 per week from selling healthy snacks. The foods that she makes and sells are well-liked by both children and parents in Banda Aceh. Mrs. Harlina is currently applying for a loan from a local micro credit institution to buy a small food processing machine. In addition, three other Kedai Balitaku vendor have used their earnings and new business acumen to grow their businesses: Mrs. Syarifah has already bought a mixer to help in her business. Mrs. Fiza has bought a mixer to help her produce more bread and a motorbike on credit to support the distribution of her products. Mrs. Yanti has bought new furniture and a refrigerator from the profits she got during February, March and April 2010.
- A vendor was invited to participate in the district's Pameran Produk Unggulan (Superior Product Exhibition): Mrs. Rosmaniar was invited by the district of Aceh Besar to participate in a “Superior Product Exhibition from May 3-9, 2010. The project is organized by the local government to promote local products and help small enterprise develop. The opening of the exhibition was attended by almost all government employees and communities in the regency of Aceh Besarh. Mrs. Rosmaniar displayed homemade Banana Cake, Cheese-Banana Bread and Carrot Muffins at the Expo. She also earned US$50 from selling various nutritious snacks.
- Children have voluntarily changed from junk food to fruits: In addition to vendor support, Mercy Corps is working to provide extensive health information to more than 500 children under the age of five in nine kindergartens that are located near each of our vendor’s homes. The aim of the health campaign is to change children's food consumption behavior during school time. Isva Rahmi — Mercy Corps Nutrition Officer — along with her teacher assistant, Fitri, are teaching children about healthy food through role-playing and story telling.
The teachers and I initially thought it would take a long time for children to learn to replace chocolate and candy with fruits and vegetables. However, we were all very surprised with the quick results of the nutrition campaign. On the second visit, Isva taught the children that snacks containing additives are harmful, then asked the children to replace the snacks brought from home with locally available fruits. The result was that almost all of the children collected their snacks and traded them for fruits!
Two schools have reported that they are happy with the result of nutrition campaign. A teacher whose students participated in the program last week thanked the nutrition team. She said that they are very happy because student’s appetites have become better. The children didn’t eat much before Mercy Corps promoted about healthy food, because the fatty snacks they used to eat had eliminated their appetite.
Another teacher reported that parents have met them recently and said that they are really glad with the change in their children's behavior. The parent told the teacher that their children had talked to them about the nutrition education campaign. Their children are now aware about nutrition and can choose between healthy and unhealthy snacks.
On the third visit, some children welcomed the nutrition team shouting “We do not eat unhealthy snacks anymore.”
“I didn’t eat candy today,” said one boy. “Me too, I don’t eat chocolate!” said another one. On the third visit, Isva brought Kedai Balitaku homemade snacks with fruits and vegetables inside. She never expected that children would ask her, “is it healthy food you bring?” Here is more to healthy growth!