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Our Blog: Health and Nutrition
February 18, 2013
Family benefits from healthy food carts
Six-year-old Chelsea Maulidya Putri and her baby brother, Bintang Nandita, are regular customers of the My Child’s Café food carts’ healthy snacks and meals.
My Child’s Café, or Kedai Balitaku, is a small business start-up run by Mercy Corps in some of the toughest neighborhoods of urban Jakarta. This social venture serves nutritious food to mothers and children in areas of highest child malnutrition. The project was made possible with the support of an investment from the Vibrant Village Foundation of $165,000 over the last two years.
Chelsea and Bintang are the children of Ibu Yuni, a 30-year old stay-at-home mom. They live in the Kapuk neighborhood of central Jakarta. “We used to have financial issues when our first daughter, Chelsea, got sick and needed healthcare. It was difficult to cover those expenses on my husband’s income,” Ibu Yuni recalls. 
One day, a neighbor told her about the pushcarts that pass by her home selling nutritious food for children. She decided to try purchasing the food for Chelsea, who was really picky about what she ate.  
“Then I started buying the product regularly, every morning and afternoon, particularly the porridge, steamed rice, and the fresh fruit jelly,” Ibu Yuni says. “Chelsea even started to eat vegetables, something that she never wanted to eat before.”

Ibu Yuni is one of over a thousand moms in Jakarta who are making the switch to healthier food options for their children, through the My Child’s Café nutritious meal alternatives. The business currently has about 1,400 regular customers reached through seven food carts, with expansion continuing as demand dictates.
“It has been one year and four months since the first time that we bought Kedai Balitaku products, and we have experienced really good results for my daughter. Thank you, Kedai Balitaku, for giving us a solution to our problems. Now my children do not get sick as easily, and they are more playful and cheerful. At the same time, we are reducing our healthcare expenses.” 
September 5, 2012
Healthy food carts in Jakarta, Indonesia

Pak Alfian, a 32-year-old husband and father, is one of eight Vibrant Village Foundation and Mercy Corps street food-cart vendors working as part of the My Child’s Café, or Kedai Balitaku (KeBal), program. Pak Alfian is an amiable person, easily mingling with people in his neighborhood. He likes to play with the children in his community including his two daughters – a six-year-old in primary school, and a four-year-old. Pak migrated with his family from his hometown in Lampung, Sumatra, to the capital city of Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2010, for the same reason many other migrants do: the hope of making a better living. When he first arrived in Jakarta, Pak Alfian started working as a construction mason. This job paid an average daily wage of 50,000 Indonesian rupiahs (about $5.50), but the working hours were inconsistent due to uncertain demand.   

At the end of 2010, Pak Alfian’s family moved into a rented room, located near a construction site in the neighborhood of Tegal Alur, where he could find regular work. Fortuitously, the room he rented was located near one of KeBal’s cooking centers. Three months after seeing advertisements at the cooking center, Alfian signed up to become one of KeBal’s vendors.

He began selling all KeBal menu items in the first week of March, 2011, and earned more than 750,000 rupiahs ($82) from his first month of sales. “I used my money to pay my child’s school fees.” Nowadays, Pak Alfian earns an average net profit of 1,200,000 rupiahs ($131) per month working from six to ten-thirty each morning. With his afternoons free, Pak Alfian has the opportunity to find additional income sources or begin a second shift offered by KeBal to sell healthy foods in the afternoon. 

Pak Alfian works hard to explain the benefits of KeBal's products to the mothers to build their trust as return customers. He explains how his food is produced, the nutritional value and that his products are affordable. He already has many loyal customers and plans to expand his market soon. He believes that this new company has a noble vision, "I will always participate and promote Kedai Balitaku by passing on knowledge and transfering my skils to other vendors,” he says. And with more vendors, more children can eat nutritious meals, at affordable prices.

August 14, 2012
Healthy food carts program in the news

In the past two years, Mercy Corps' innovative program in Jakarta captured a lot of press attention. The project, My Child's Cafe, or Kebal in Indonesian, combines a sustainable, job-creating business model with providing nutritious snacks and meals for children in Jakarta's inner city.

The New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning Tina Rosenberg wrote: “Mercy Corps has worked hard to infuse KeBal with a business mentality…KeBal is probably the riskiest kind of social business. Even if it fails, it is an admirable idea. There was probably no other way to solve the problem of getting healthy food to Jakarta’s children. Boldness is often lacking in established nongovernmental groups, and in this case, it is something to applaud.”

August 2012, The Jakarta Globe

What's to Be Done about Jakartans' Penchant for Non-Nutritious Food?

May 2011, New York Times

In Food Deserts, Oases of Nutrition

The Path from Charity to Profit

June 27, 2011, PBS Newshour

Soaring Food Costs Hit Indonesian Families' Budgets

June 7, 2011, Taste for Travel

The story behind some of Asia's cheap street eats