Kampong Chheu Teal village in Cambodia is a 30 minute drive from the nearest paved road. To get there, visitors must drive down a rutted dirt path that becomes impassable during heavy rain. Like most remote rural communities in Cambodia, the people of Kampong Chheu Teal struggle with undernutrition and poor dietary habits.
“Many children are undernourished,” says Hel Yeu, a volunteer with the local village health support group. Yeu believes teaching people the importance of using the vegetables and fruits in their gardens to prepare balanced meals is one important way to address this problem.
An innovative solution developed by Feed the Future is reaching Kampong Chheu Teal and other isolated communities in Cambodia with much-needed community education on improved nutrition and hygiene practices that can save lives. Earlier this year, Feed the Future began deploying mobile kitchens to some of the farthest reaches of Cambodia, with the goal of training approximately 50,000 people in rural communities on how to combat undernutrition through better feeding practices and hygiene. The mobile kitchens are specially modified, two-wheeled snack carts towed by motorbikes, and they are able to traverse roads that are inaccessible to most other vehicles.
On a recent Thursday morning, one of the program’s eight planned mobile kitchens – an eye-catching contraption made of gleaming stainless steel and topped with a bright red tarp – was parked on the grounds of Kampong Chheu Teal’s Buddhist temple. Fifty participants, mostly mothers with children, gathered around to watch a local Feed the Future partner demonstrate how to properly wash and prepare vegetables without depleting their nutrients.
Typical sessions like these last half a day and cover a range of topics, from essential food groups to the use of iodine-fortified salt. Trainers use interactive methods to engage the audience, and at the end of the sessions participants work together to prepare a feast, putting into practice what they’ve learned. Feed the Future partners use their connections with local community leaders like Yeu to encourage attendance, though the novelty of the mobile kitchens themselves has helped spark widespread interest in the demonstrations – nearly 16,000 people in two Cambodian provinces have already participated in mobile kitchen events in just the first few months of the program.
Huan Sokly, a mother of four, says a recent training helped her understand the importance of breakfast to her children’s mental and physical development, and she plans to make sure they eat three full meals per day. “I’ve learned some very important information,” she says. “I urge all mothers to attend mobile kitchen events in their village.”