Five girls from the Jane Sandanski Highschool from Strumica have teamed up to create change so that young people from their school and from community have healthier eating alternatives to the overwhelmingly “rich” offer of burgers, pizzas, pastries and sugary drinks. Through the UPSHIFT programme, designed to stimulate young people towards social entrepreneurship, they are now witnessing their idea becoming a reality.
As most teenagers Viktorija, Mia, Lina, Verica and Ivana like to be involved in everything and to use every opportunity that comes their way. They like to hang out with their friends, they enjoy going to school, listening to music, singing or simply just having fun. But unlike most teenagers that are often unconcerned about the quality of the food they eat, these vibrant girls clearly understand that with all its beauty aside, when it is about food, youth often means “blind following of modern trends that can directly and negatively influence the quality of life for the young people,” as they say.
“All around our school, you can only buy burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pastries or sugary drinks. And that is not a problem for school-time only. There are no healthy food options in the whole city of Strumica,” Verica says.
For these five girls, this was simply unacceptable, because it affected their health, their development and for many young people it also contributes to weight problems.
“We had to do something and once we saw the call for UPSHIFT, we knew that this is our chance to make a difference for us and for all future generations in our city,” Viktorija says.
And, they did. Even before receiving the news that they were selected for the first UPSHIFT workshop in the country, they already laid the foundation for their idea – a new small healthy food corner inside their own school. They started collaborating with the local agricultural high school, identified a few sponsors and business partners, and got the school management to agree for them to use the “school company” option so that they can implement their idea.
“Once we received the e-mail notification that we have been selected for UPSHIFT we got the whole school up - yelling and celebrating,” Ivana says.
They had a chance to further develop their idea during the UPSHIFT workshop, organized by CEED Hub Skopje, with the support from the Ministry of Education, the Bureau for Development of Education, the Fund for Innovations and Technical Development and UNICEF, and guided by experienced mentors.