Transformation of a family from NICE city food system women and youth group
Aminul Islam and Beauty Akter are married for decade but misfortune and poverty were always a part of their lives. Life became difficult as the time pass by while covid made it worse. Aminul had the business of laundry and a tiny computer shop with insufficient income where Beauty was always a housewife. They have 3 school going children. Before covid 19 the couple operated the school canteen of Tajhat Girls High School but due to lock down the schools were closed for over years from 2020 mid of 2022. Their income source was doomed and they were in constant poverty.
However, in post pandemic the schools reopened and simultaneously Beauty Akhter from Ershadnagar ward number 28 got connected to Nutrition in City Ecosystems (NICE) project and joined NICE city food system women and youth group. A group which works for the vulnerable women and youth of Rangpur and try to create employment opportunity by connecting them to City Level Multisectoral Nutrition Coordination Committee. A neighbor friend who was already connected to NICE Women and youth group gave her the information and she joined. Consecutively she and other group members received training on Food safety and Agroecological Safe vegetable production. In post pandemic the schools started to open and the couple finally got relief from the cycle of poverty they started re working in the school canteen. Upon receiving the training, they got to understand and created the awareness regarding nutritional value of food, food safety, cleanliness and cooking procedures. They decided to restructure the canteen and update the menu for the students. Firstly, her husband used to work with the bakery items only and after her engagement in the WYG, slater on she got an idea to become independent entrepreneur and got to know about food diversity from our regular sessions.
As working in the school requires more caution as it is directly related to the health and hygiene of the students, they remain very cautious regarding what they are selling says her husband. Beauty added,
“I was unaware about food safety and cleanliness. I had no practical knowledge on preparing safe and nutritious food . For example, now I wash the vegetables before I cut them for cooking. I use hot water to distill the utensils and wash the utensils thoroughly before cooking.”Beauty
Upon updating the menu, they have decided to cook, serve and sell nutritious meal for the teachers and the students. They planned on selling nutritious vegetable hotchpotch, seasonal fruits, tea and light snacks as the mid-day meal. They also have freshly prepared fried items. Beauty also added she uses at least three vegetables in the hotchpotch. The vegetables include potato, raw papaya, spinach, sweet pumpkin, carrot, bottle gourd, ash gourd, basically whichever seasonal vegetables available are available. Previously she used to neglect proper cooking steps and did not cover the pan with the lid which resulted in loss of nutritional value of the food. She added that she tries to collect Zinc bio fortified rice or the brown rice from the local city market as the nutritional value of this rice is more. She avoids use of palm oil and any kind of taste enhancer. Besides, she purchases the safe vegetables from NICE mobile vans which brings vegetables from safe food zone of NICE Nutrition Farmers’ Hub.
Moreover, NICE project also intervened at this school and through the boot camp in the students learned to know about Nutrition Club which resulted in creating awareness of food nutritional value which also assisted to boost the sales. On forming the Nutrition Club the students came to know about nutritional value of the foods which resulted the students to consume this nutritious food sold in their canteen. It resulted both ways to ensure the nutritional value of the food by creating awareness among the students. Many at times Beauty also buys the vegetables from the Nutrition Garden which creates a jovial situation for the students to consume it.
Depending on the number of students they prepare the meal every day. No stale food is sold in the canteen. Everyday around 2.5 kg of rice, 2.5 kg of vegetable and 1 kg of lentils are used to prepare the hotchpotch. As sider there are lentil, pumpkin, potato fritter, or boiled eggs (menu varies on the alternate days). They sell per plate for BDT 10. They also sell fruits like guava in the season last year they sold Guava worth BDT 1,000. Banana is sold throughout the year. Previously, they had an income of BDT 400 which is around BDT 8,800 in a month but now as the sales have increased the income has generated to BDT 16,000 a month. This raise in their income has helped the family be at financially sustainable position. She is very thankful to NICE project as she got practical experience for food safety and could generate her income. Formerly, they were in huge debt had to ask for financial assistance from the immediate family members but now as she evolved as an entrepreneur with the help from the project has led to both economic solvency and made her understood the importance of eating right kind of food. NICE strives to empower women and youth entrepreneurs in their efforts to combat poverty and malnutrition by providing support for improved health and education.