Improving nutrition and hygiene practices for food vendors in Shwe Pyi Thar TownshipPublished: Dec 12, 2022 Reading time: 8 minutes
Recent socio-economic crises have had devasting impacts on the people of Myanmar. As a result, more and more people have moved from the countryside to more urban areas to seek stable incomes through construction, transportation, and other occupations. Yangon and Mandalay are among the most attractive regions for internal migration out of rural areas.
People in Need (PIN), along with Helvetas Myanmar and other consortium partners, have been working on the Aye Chan Thaw Ein (ACTE) project in the Shwe Pyi Thar township of the Yangon region since October 2019. The project will continue until January 2023. The project focuses on providing reliable information about safe migration, promoting knowledge about decent working conditions, and how to earn an honest income through life skills development and accurate nutrition information to migrants and their families. With the financial support of the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) Myanmar, the project aims to reduce the vulnerability of internal migrants through integrated programming. By mid-2022, it had reached more than 1.7 million people in Shwe Pyi Thar township.
Nutritious and healthy meals are critical for migrant workers
Along with our partner, Food Science and Technology Association Myanmar (FoSTA), we have been working hard to increase access to nutritious and healthy meals for migrant workers and their families within the host community of Shwe Pyi Thar township.
As part of the ACTE project, FoSTA has conducted 10 Food Vendor training for 141 food vendors in the Shwe Pyi Thar township. The training focused on sharing knowledge of safe and nutritious food, good hygiene practices, and properly assessing costs to ensure and uphold food safety, hygiene, and sanitation management while dealing with customers. In addition, FoSTA promotes good sanitation, hygiene, and waste management practices.
Specifically, FoSTA provides courses on good hygiene and sanitation practices related to food preparation, serving, and storage (including relevant temperatures). In the peri-urban area, many migrant workers rely on the food sold by the food vendors near their housing or workplaces. Therefore, FoSTA aims to improve migrant workers’ access to nutritious meals sold by certified food vendors.
Ma Khin Marlar, a 44-year-old mother, sells ‘morning snacks’ at her shop near the housing complex of migrant workers in Ward 21. She sells “Mohingya, noodle and vermicelli salads in the morning and port sticks in the afternoon. “I have been living in Shwe Pyi Thar township for more than 20 years,” she says. “When Cyclone Nargis hit our hometown, we moved here. I gained more knowledge about food vendor training. The training took two full days. We thank FoSTA and the Aye Chan Thaw Ein project for sharing useful knowledge.”
“When Cyclone Nargis hit our hometown, we moved here. I gained more knowledge about food vendor training. The training took two full days. We thank FoSTA and the Aye Chan Thaw Ein project for sharing useful knowledge.”
She adds, “Near my shop, there are many hostels and buildings housing migrant workers. In the early morning, around 6 am, I open my shop. Workers buy food before they go to their factories. As we are selling morning snacks, I am more careful to provide nutritious foods with good hygiene practices such as wearing an apron, hat, and gloves to ensure food safety for my customers. Many migrant workers lack time for food preparation before leaving for work. I reach an average of around 200 customers per day. But most of my customers are low-income workers, so they do not have enough money even to buy morning snacks, and I offer them the option to pay later.”
Ko Ko Win, a FoSTA project manager under the ACTE project, shares his experiences from conducting training for food vendors. “After the training, FoSTA held follow-up review sessions where we found that many food vendors had become more knowledgeable about preparing food safely, avoiding food safety hazards, storing food properly, handling water correctly and disposing of waste carefully. The review also highlighted that vendors increased their knowledge of handling food properly for healthy practices. FoSTA believes that the trained vendors have gained the knowledge and can now apply these new skills from the training to make changes in the way they prepare their food to make it more nutritious.”
Ko Ko Win says, “our training targeted food vendors living in Shwe Pyi Thar township. Everyone above 18 years old could attend, but the majority of participants ended up being female food vendors. We provided the training free of charge and provided the necessary skills and cooking items, such as aprons, caps, plastic hand gloves, chopping boards, and knives. After completing the training, we handed out certifications with two purposes. On the one hand, they help the general public identify which food vendors comply with hygiene standards and on the other, they offer healthy and balanced meals to their customers.”
Based on the food vendor assessments carried out by FoSTA in September 2022, a total of 108,538 migrant workers and family members have already purchased nutritious food sold by 52 certified food vendors by the ACTE project. Along with this basic food vendor training, FoSTA also conducted a Training of Trainers (ToT) course for selected, certified food vendors. Aiming to share newly learned practices with other vendors about effective hygiene and sanitation practices as they relate to food preparation, service, and storage.
Ma Khine Khine San, one of the head chefs of a family restaurant in Shwe Pyi Thar township, recalls, “I attended the food vendor training offered by FoSTA, and I gained more knowledge and improved my managing skills in food storage and have applied new hygiene standards. Our restaurant has been open for more than ten years now. However, the newly learned skills are very useful for us to apply, such as good hygiene practices and waste management and how to store the meat and vegetables in the fridge properly to minimize food waste.” She adds, “I was also chosen as a trainer to join the Training of Trainers (ToT) programme by FoSTA. After this ToT training, I am ready to share my experiences and knowledge with other vendors in the community.”
Consortium approaches under the Aye Chan Thaw Ein project for certified food vendors
Myanmar Private TVET Association (MPTA) has also provided Essential Culinary Skills (Oriental Foods) training under the ACTE project for certified food vendors. MPTA has conducted eight batches of Culinary Skills training and trained 139 individuals from Shwe Pyi Thar township, including food vendors qualified by FoSTA. Ma Khine Khine San is one of the food vendors trained by FoSTA, and she joined the month-long training, which provided culinary skills with practical and knowledge tests and on-the-job training. “After I completed the food vendors training by FoSTA,” she recalls, “they enrolled me in this month-long training conducted by MPTA. I was interested in joining because all skills from the training were useful for me, because I own a small restaurant which sells Chinese and Oriental foods.”
Through consortium approaches, the Community Development Association (CDA) also provided the “Food for U” programme in Shwe Pyi Thar township. This project focused on providing small grants to fixed and mobile vendors who completed the “Food Vendor Training” by FoSTA and received a certificate. In this program, CDA chose the vendors who continuously sold their food and products in Shwe Pyi Thar township to get grant support from CDA. This grant supports the production of safe and healthy food for migrant workers.
Ko Win Htut Thein, a project manager at the CDA, says, “Currently, CDA has provided small grants to 23 vendors out of 45. The selected food vendors have received between 350,000 - 500,000 Kyats, based on their food products and the size of their businesses. With this grant support, food vendors can increase their investment in food production, and customers can access more healthy and nutritious food. After receiving a grant from us, food vendors say that they are happier to provide safe and healthy meals based on the cooking techniques, good hygiene practices, and waste management they learned from FoSTA.”
Ma Yu War Naing, a FoSTA-certified food vendor who received a small grant from CDA under the “Food for U” programme, shares her thoughts, “I received financial support from Aye Chan Thaw Ein project to renovate my shop and investment more in food production. I sell morning and evening snacks, such as Mohinga, Mote Tee (noodles) and salads near the housings of workers. I sell nutritious food products in my shop and uphold hygiene practices. On average, I invest 70,000 Myanmar Kyats (approximately 33$) and profit 12,000 Kyats (approximately 10$) from its financial support. I have six family members and spend 7,000 Kyats for my family’s livelihoods and save 5,000 Kyats to invest more in their future. I am grateful for the Aye Chan Thaw Ein project and its donors for supporting us.”