Jakarta

N. Jakarta kids like
their healthy meals

Endang, holding her one-year-old son Guntur in her arms, approached a wholesome-looking food cart in Tugu Utara subdistrict, North Jakarta, on Sunday morning.

The cart, which stood out from shabbier competitors, was part of the Kedai Balitaku enterprise, which aims to offer healthy snacks and meals for toddlers in the kampung.

From the cart, Endang ordered take-away rice porridge with shredded chicken, topped with blended corn-and-green beans, for Guntur.

"He really likes it. We've been buying the porridge daily for a month now," she said.

"Meanwhile, Guntur's sister really likes the guava jelly sticks."

Kedai Balitaku is a profit-driven project supported by NGO Mercy Corps. It offers a menu of cheap yet healthy homemade food and snacks in a pushcart. Besides displaying food and snacks, the cart is equipped with clean water for handwashing and a trash bin.

The menu includes rice porridge, corn pudding, fruit jelly sticks, nut-flavored crackers, baked macaroni and cheese, fish dumplings and meatballs, with prices ranging from Rp 500 (5 US cents) to Rp 2,000 per portion.

As a pilot project, Mercy Corps have empowered residents of Tugu Utara and Tugu Selatan subdistricts to start and run the food business since November last year.

Tugu Utara recently reported at least 10 cases of mother and children malnutrition. According to North Jakarta health agency, 1,239 toddlers in the municipality were prone to malnutrition.

Jadi, 37, the only seller in Tugu Selatan, said he started the business four months ago.

Jadi used to earn his income with odong-odong, a cart with rented rocking horses or vehicles for kids.

"My interest in cooking attracted me to this project."

Jadi said as a starter, the NGO provided him with two months training to produce the healthy food and snacks, a borrowed cart and Rp 500,000 in capital.

"I've settled the debt as I earned around Rp 150,000 per day."

Housewife Eli, 39, said her new activity had given her business management experience. "Everyday we have to make a financial report and give it to Mercy Corps."

Eli said she worked within a group to run two carts in Tugu Utara.

"I make the rice porridge before pushing the cart around my home area from 6 to 9 a.m. everyday," she said, adding other group members cooked the snacks.

"Rice porridge and guava pudding are the kid's favorites. Each day I make and sell 40 portions of rice porridge and around 50 cups of pudding. Business is promising."

Mercy Corps project officer Dini Windu Asih told The Jakarta Post that the basic idea of Kedai Balitaku was to increase the quality of life for North Jakarta residents by providing them with good alternatives of food and snacks for children as well as entrepreneurship skills.

"Most kids love to munch, but what we usually have in our neighborhood is unhealthy and unhygienic food and snacks," Dini said.

Many of the city's vendors sell snacks with dubious-looking sauces that are fried with reused cooking oil. "Hopefully, this project could counter the distribution of the unfavorable food to kids," Dini said.

The NGO aims produce at least two carts for each of the 18 neighboring units in Tugu Utara.

Each cart requires an investment of Rp 8 million.

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