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Mobile Teaching Kitchens interview insights

Written by Rory Langan



What inspired you to take part in the Mobile Teaching Kitchens initiative?


Mitra: “I Started in 2019, involved in fundraising initially and realized that this was something that mattered to me. Currently, we are adapting MTK in different regions. I knew how important nutrition is in India and enjoyed how it educated and empowered the community beyond simply delivering food and resources.”


Ray: “The opportunity to do something tangible and visible accompanied by the rigor of research tools and also evidence-based education rolled into a single point of intervention”. Experience in research, education, and advocacy (public engagement), and MTK brings all these together to a single focal point and allows us to build an intervention in terms of widening and deepening its impact while also gaining insight into which things work and which don’t base on our ability to look at the evidence and really gather research data.


How have you seen the Mobile Teaching Kitchens Initiative change the communities you have reached out to? What are the qualitative changes you have noticed in the communities you have worked with through this initiative?


Mitra: Changes in the women who have gone through the training: “they have become more confident; they are learning a lot. The changes in several people in the community’s health are what the team has witnessed.”


Ray: “I have seen those changes in qualitative terms in the competence and confidence in the champions trained as well as their families. There is an increased awareness in the entire communities that they hail from. This has been measurable in some of the changes we have seen in education, psychometry changes and focus group work which has demonstrated a lot more initiative in terms of individuals and groups gaining the locus of control for their own health and well-being. For MTK, their economic resilience.”


What are the quantitative changes you have noticed in the communities you have worked with through this initiative?


Mitra: “The number of people targeting when these women are being sold food and knowledge.”


Ray: “Shifts in KAP scores as well as the number of associated measurements cross-sectionally as well as longitudinally.”


Do you see the Mobile Teaching Kitchens initiative being replicated in other low to middle-income countries?


Mitra: “Yes, definitely! There is already outreach happening! For example, Bangladesh, and Brazil. There are 12 countries total.”


Ray: “Yes, with other elements we want to especially bring to other low/middle-income countries being micro-entrepreneurship, education as a byproduct of that, shifts of KAP as well as individual and group behaviours. All are replicated in other countries because the data show that those ought to be transferable.


Do you see it being replicated in lower-income communities in higher-income countries?


Mitra: “Definitely, yes. The US, the UK, and other countries in Europe are a few examples. Populations in migrant communities, refugees, or other financially not stable communities. Proposals are already being made.”


Ray: “Yes, we are ready to go in the US and talking about doing this in the UK. This ought to be the same because there, we’re dealing with buckets of poverty and food/nutrition insecurity. An added benefit is that there is a multifaceted service by public health and healthcare professionals in these regions. The kitchens can be provided in communities with insecurity and limited literacy (one of health literacy).”


What are the current limitations of the Mobile Teaching Kitchens Initiative?


Mitra: “The primary limitations are in funding; our team is involved in fundraising. There is always a challenge in how much we can raise. There are limitations when we implement in different countries. The nature of the kitchen changes in different places. Building rapport takes time, but when the community sees the impact and when they see how we are with them in building this change, they see how it’s a positive change.”


Ray: “The kitchens are quickly developed, but this is circumvented by learning what adaptations are needed for other countries. Limits are in expansion and solution is adaptation. There is no biological data, most of it is self-reported or reported by researchers observing phenomena, so this is subject to bias. Use of multiple data sources will circumvent this. The biggest limitation is sustainable funding. The pathway to microenterprise is self-sustaining. The plan to circumvent this issue is applying for enough funding through giving to bridge the developmental years.”


How has this initiative changed over time since its inception? What have you learned about combatting global hunger through this initiative?


Mitra: “A lot has changed, but we see a kind of change in sustainability in this initiative since its launch. We are making sure our champions feel confident, but more continuous training is required to keep everyone up to date on the most recent information. They get updates when other countries receive this training. Personally, this was just about providing enough food for people; now people see what is going into their meals, and that is something I have learned.”


Ray: “There are three phases in the MTK initiative: assessment, intervention, and micro-entrepreneurship. Initially, we envisioned this project as only educational, but now it’s entrepreneurial, with an education achieved on the way. Combating global hunger is a way to take the programmatic approaches that are in UN member states based broadly on WHO guidance: Double duty actions (recommended by WHO) addressing over and under-nutrition deficiency as well as over-nutrition. This project combats hunger and hidden hunger through micronutrient intake. It is high visibility, high impact, and empowering communities with longer-term benefits (most important). Loci of control and sustainability get integrated through the community.”


What are the next steps for the Mobile Teaching Kitchens initiative?


Mitra: “We are expanding within the South Asia region; within India, we are expanding to other regions ‘Punjab’. Nepal, Mexico, we have the funding for the US. UK”, speaking to folks. Brazil. Italy and parts of Europe (in Switzerland), to say a few.


Ray: “We intend to fully publish the existing data from microenterprise so we can look at how the training of the small number of champions quantitatively impacts the perceptions and awareness of many members of the public served. There will also be additional insights on return on investments and the business model of this MTK initiative. That will tell us if it is truly sustainable.”


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