Youth with a recipe for a change

Five girls from the Jane Sandanski High school from Strumica have teamed up to create change so that young people from their surrounding have healthier eating alternatives to the overwhelmingly “rich” offer of burgers, pizzas, pastries and sugary drinks.

UNICEF
The team of five girls wearing green shirts each of which contains a single word, jointly creating the message - healthy food for healthy generations
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

14 December 2018

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.

 

The team of five girls working on their plans during the UPSHIFT workshop, together with their mentor
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

The healthy food corner named “Биди зелен ти (Go green)” will indeed become a reality – it was one of the five ideas selected to receive seed funding. Children from the school will be able to pre-order a meal using a mobile phone or web app and have it ready for their lunch break.

One of the best aspects of the idea is the fact that is a sustainable solution. The revenue will be invested in running and further developing the business and the girls had many ideas on how to use the space in the restaurant for additional events or as co-working area. In the spirit of team work and social entrepreneurship they even agreed to share part of their income with another team from the same school that had the idea to develop a space for physical activities for people with disabilities.

A group hug of the team after being announced as one of the winning teams on the first UPSHIFT workshop in the country
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

“This was an amazing experience; the teamwork, the competition, the friendships created and all the knowledge gained. I really enjoyed all of it,” says Mia.

“It is even more amazing so see our idea becoming a reality,” Lina adds.

The go green team presenting their project idea at the first UPSHIFT workshop in the country
UNICEF/2018/Georgiev

The “Биди зелен ти” will help children from the school to live a happier and healthier life. But equally important, it will serve to inspire other young people, from their school, from their home town and from the whole country, to be more active, vocal and caring about the environment in which they live in.

These are the key goals of the UPSHIFT programme, designed to support young people to become social innovators and entrepreneurs. It combines social innovation workshops, where young people can learn new skills, with mentorship and funding, so that they can better detect problems in their communities, find innovative solutions for them and get a support to see their idea becoming a reality. This boosts their resilience, their creativity, their confidence and allows communities to thrive thanks to the solutions that they create.