Women from the Banturung subdistrict of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, participate in a five-step learning program about nutrition and health care created and conducted by Yayasan Usaha Mulia through its YUM Agro campaign. JG Photos/John Macdonald

YUM Brings Nutrition, Health to Rural Indonesia

BY :JOHN MACDONALD

APRIL 01, 2015

Women from the Banturung subdistrict of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, participate in a five-step learning program about nutrition and health care created and conducted by Yayasan Usaha Mulia through its YUM Agro campaign. JG Photos/John Macdonald

Here are some surprising facts: Children can enjoy eating vegetables; a good diet needn’t cost more than a poor one; and healthy eating reduces the risk of a range of childhood diseases. In Central Kalimantan, the Yayaysan Usaha Mulia, or YUM, is showing communities how.

YUM is a nonprofit group has been working with local communities in the Bukit Batu district of Central Kalimantan for almost two decades. They are now deeply embedded within this community, and have built strong links with government and academic organizations, NGOs, and aid donors.  I am an Australian volunteer working as a media officer with

YUM for the past two years, funded by the Australian  government as part of the Australian  Volunteers for International  Development (AVID) program. YUM has conducted highly successful collaborative projects which have improved conditions conducive to disease, provided clean water and improved  sanitation, delivered vocational training, supported education — and established hundreds of organic vegetable gardens.  The main goal of the YUM Agro project is to improve home gardening practices, thereby improving nutrition and food security in this poor and mostly infertile region. It’s a very worthwhile project; very practical and — with over 300  productive gardens established — the program is clearly very successful, too.

But as YUM staff observed from the early stages of the project, many of the nutritional benefits of having fresh  produce are negated by common dietary and cooking practices, and children’s health is being compromised by a range of preventable illnesses. These observations were reinforced by a survey of the health of children in nearly 400 families in the area, conducted jointly with the Health Ministry’s Health Academy in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.

The survey found high cases of fevers, coughs, colds and influenza,  diarrhea, and dental problems — and a generally low level of knowledge about nutrition, basic health principles and first aid. Also, stunted growth was found to be common amongst children, due largely to deficient diets and the impact of  preventable diseases. In early 2014, to improve knowledge about nutrition and healthy cooking  practices, YUM launched a five-step learning program, developed and delivered in partnership with 16 community health posts in the district.

Women from the Banturung subdistrict of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, participate in a five-step learning program about nutrition and health care created and conducted by Yayasan Usaha Mulia through its YUM Agro campaign. JG Photos/John Macdonald

Each module incorporates a package of health and nutritional information, and a dozen related recipes. Each is delivered through a series of presentations and hands-on cooking classes in the health posts, and via a free reference and recipe booklet, which is given to each participant.

The first module covers the basic components of a healthy diet, and the properties of many commonly consumed foods. The recipes encourage cooking with less oil, lightly steaming (rather than boiling) vegetables, and reducing or eliminating the use of added salt, refined sugar and MSG in family meals.

The second module focuses on the importance of a good diet for mothers-to-be, nursing mothers, babies and toddlers. It explains the special functions of iron, calcium, folate, vitamin A, Omega-3 and iodine — and why children need to eat lots of fruit and vegetables.

Module three is currently being rolled out. Its message is promoting the tremendous potential of moringa and amaranth seeds to supplement diets. These plants are easy, cheap and quick to grow, and provide concentrated amounts of important vitamins and minerals, as well as  significant amounts of protein. Recipes are now being “road-tested” and refined, and dietary impacts are being tested and monitored in conjunction with the Palangkaraya polytechnic.

Development of the fourth module is nearly complete. It deals with stir-frying — the benefits, techniques and recipes. The fifth and final module, to be delivered later in 2015, will cover dehydration and other techniques for preserving fruit and vegetables. Throughout the program, YUM’s approach has been to provide clear,  practical, and useful information to participants. Each module is tested and fine-tuned prior to rollout, and the recipes are all tested for ease of use — and flavor!

To assist families in cooking with less oil, YUM subsidizes the purchase of non-stick frying pans by families in the  program, making these pans as affordable as the conventional variety. Response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive, with 380 women — accompanied by an even greater number of babies and toddlers — attending sessions in the health post so far.

They are highly motivated to improve the diets of their families, and are pleased to find that cooking with less oil is cheaper, and that the meals produced can actually taste better.  As Fitriani, from Banturung subdistrict says: “I’m especially happy because my child is now eating eggs mixed with vegetables. Before, he didn’t like them!”  Meanwhile, Kanis has found financial benefits, too, noting that: “Before I used a liter of oil every week, but now I only use a little bit.”

The next phase of the project will be implemented by mid-2015, again in partnership with the polytechnic. It will explain the causes of the most common childhood diseases, and how they may be prevented by addressing dietary deficiencies and improving hygiene. And, when illness occurs, it will give a step-by-step guide to treating it at home and how to know when to visit the doctor.

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