Children growing up in the crowded slums of Jakarta ease their hunger pangs by frequenting the food carts lining the streets and alleys of this mega-city.

Snacks are so cheap that even poor mothers can afford to send their kids off to school with enough rupiah to buy a bag of chips or sweet treat.

To improve kids’ health, Mercy Corps has teamed up with local entrepreneurs to roll out a new fleet of food carts specially designed to appeal to young consumers.

These kid-friendly carts with red-and-white canopies dispense affordable but nutritious fare, replacing empty calories with tasty porridges, stews, and finger foods.

The kid-friendly carts are also opening up new micro-business opportunities for street vendors.

Mercy Corps handpicked its first group of vendors and provided them with training in everything from bookkeeping to branding.

Mercy Corps also supplied the carts, which cost about $600 apiece. In return, vendors agreed to stick to the healthy-fare menu. “By their second month on the streets,” says Carlson, “they were turning a profit.”

One sure sign that the carts are catching on? Young customers are starting to text-message their food orders.

Photo by Mercy Corps.

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