Recently spent an afternoon learning about the Sweet Potato Mamas project in Taipei, a program created by the Genesis Social Welfare Foundation to help single mothers make a living independently. The mothers sell sweet potatoes (an important staple of Taiwanese food tradition and a delicious snack) from street carts in various locations around the city. The mothers can set their own work schedule but choose to work almost every day to support their family.
In Chinese, they call sweet potatoes Di-Gua (地瓜), and the mamas aim to sell two large baskets full of potatoes every day. I got to spend an hour helping to sell sweet potatoes (the goal set by my guide was 5 in one hour and we sold around 15) just outside of Zhongxiao Xinsheng station. The price of each potato is determined by weight and one potato usually rung up at $20-5 TWD or $.60-70 USD.
I stood outside the station exit with my guide yelling DI-GUA and pointing to the cart in hopes of roping in customers. When someone approached the cart, they picked out the sweet potato they wanted, I got to weigh the potatoes, tell the customer how much it was, handle the money, and bag it up for them. In between customers, I was entertained by the mama’s children who were adorable as all get out. At the end of my hour long shift, I got to snack on my own sweet potato and I even got to sample sweet brown sugar cake that vendors across from us were selling.
It was such a joyful learning experience, and if you ever make it to Taipei, I encourage you to spend an afternoon learning about the program and standing alongside one of the Sweet Potato Mamas to help sell as many 地瓜 as you can.