The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


DPU Working Paper - No. 55

Women and the urban street food trade: Some implications for policy


13 June 1990

Author: Monique Cohen

Publication Date: 13 June 1990

For our breakfast, Service gave me a shilling to buy some yoki-gari from a woman who stationed herself just across the road from our house ... The woman put fourpence worth of in the pan I gave her, added fourpence worth of beans and then the oil which added to the flavour of the whole mixture. (Duodo 1969, 111) 2 .

Such a description of daily life in the city, taken from an African novel, is all too often perceived by the outsider as 'quaint colour', part of the indigenous and non-modern part of life in a developing country. A headline such as 'Street Food in Singapore' makes not only colourful copy in a travel magazine but also a delightful culinary experience for the tourist or researcher passing through. Yet behind these words lies a stark reality in which the production, sale and consumption of street foods often play a key role in the economic survival of many of the urban and rural poor. In Bogor, a city of over 200,000 in Indonesia, Chapman (1984) estimated that one in sixteen of the urban population is involved in some aspect of the supply side of the street food trade. Moreover, nearly 30% of this vending population are involved in the preparation and sale of the dietary staples of mixed rice meals and noodle soups. For many eating meals and snacks outside the home, particularly in urban areas, appears a growing if not always recognised aspect of the urban lifestyle. Nearly 77% of the households surveyed in the medium sized city of lle-lfe, Nigeria, admitted to purchasing breakfast four to seven times a week rather than preparing it (Pease 1984).

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