Authors: Harmanpreet Kaur, Wanja Nyaga and Sarah Armes
Editors: Ramya Rajaram and Sumantra (Shumone) Ray
Key Contributors: Sucheta Mitra and the Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) India Chapter (www.mtki.org)
Digital Editing: Matheus Abrantes
Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge and thank Asim Kumar Manna, Debashis Chakraborty, the MTK Champions, Elizabeth Richards, Chitra Ray, Mitali Gupta, and other vital individuals of the Bhavishya Shakti Cooperative Society.
In February 2015, Kolkata hosted a significant event - the 14th World Congress on Public Health, centred around the theme "Healthy People - Healthy Environment." This gathering was pivotal for transformation, bringing together insights from diverse public health disciplines to confront the global imperative of enhancing human well-being. Post-congress, the NNEdPro Global Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health undertook a mission to institute a Teaching Kitchen Model in two urban slums, namely Chetla Lock Gate and R.G.Kar Canal West. This initiative was propelled by the overarching vision of eliminating malnutrition by 2030.
Initially, the Teaching Kitchen aimed to impart nutrition knowledge to marginalised women in Kolkata. However, recognising the potential for broader impact, the model evolved into a Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) in 2018. This transition enhanced nutritional outreach and envisioned creating livelihood opportunities for women by empowering them with catering skills. This strategic shift aimed to positively impact the health and nutritional status of the community at large.
From 2015 to 2018, women from the R.G. Kar and Chetla slums underwent nutrition training using the MTK, guided by local dietitians, doctors, and volunteers. The 'See One, Do One, Teach One' approach facilitated effective knowledge retention within the community. By 2019, twelve women took a significant step forward - they formed a Cooperative Society named 'Bhavishya Shakti: Empowering the Future.'
Bhavishya Shakti Cooperative Society initiated a Community Kitchen that caters to and sells nutritious, healthy, and affordable food across Kolkata and acts as a beacon for positive change. Operating through a Mobile Unit and a Stationary Base Kitchen, the Cooperative Society disseminates nutrition, healthy eating, and lifestyle knowledge. The Mobile Unit moves around Lake Town, Bangur, Kalindi, and R.G.kar. At the same time, the Stationary Base Kitchen in Lake Town serves the South Dum Dum Municipality, filling the void left by the inactive Mobile Unit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2022, the Cooperative Society entered a new phase, conducting the second round of 'See One, Do One, Teach One' (SODOTO) training in the Chetla slum area. Twenty participants were trained in cooking low-cost nutritious food, with four individuals continuously groomed by the Bhavishya Shakti team to become micro-entrepreneurs. Beyond the core activities of the MTK, the Cooperative Society started conducting Awareness Sessions in collaboration with various NGOs in Kolkata, amplifying the impact of their initiative. Notably, the success of the MTK model in Kolkata has sparked replication in diverse locations across India. Collaborations have been forged to implement versions of MTK in the slums of Calcutta Rescue in Kolkata, East Delhi slums with Vertiver, and rural Punjab, Sanghol, in partnership with Cordia Group of Institutes.
In the relentless pursuit of its mission, the Bhavishya Shakti Cooperative Society strives beyond the mere establishment of Mobile Teaching Kitchens. The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable and nutrition-sensitive microenterprise that provides livelihoods to the champions emerging from the 'See One, Do One, Teach One' training and channels a portion of the generated revenue back into the community. This innovative approach aims to foster a cyclical system where the community benefits from subsidised meal provisions, educational programmes, and other essential services. By interweaving economic empowerment with community well-being, the Cooperative Society envisions a future where the impact of their initiative reaches beyond nutritional education and micro-entrepreneurship, leaving a lasting positive mark on the health and welfare of the communities they serve. Through this holistic approach, the Bhavishya Shakti Cooperative Society aspires to be a beacon of sustainable change, echoing the spirit of the 14th World Congress on Public Health.
Looking ahead, Bhavishya Shakti Cooperative Society envisions a newer version of the MTK tailored for the Santhali community in Jharkhand. Collaborating with the University of East Anglia, Charities Aid Foundation, and the PRADAN team, this future endeavour underscores the commitment to extending the transformative impact of nutrition education and micro-enterprise empowerment to even more communities in need.
Watch below a brief video presentation by Matheus Abrantes linking the MTK with the concepts of Microfinance and Microenterprise in India and beyond: