The area at the Greece-Bulgaria border is home to some of the most vulnerable communities in both countries. It is characterized by increasing poverty and high unemployment rates, especially among minorities and vulnerable groups such as women, youth, long-term unemployed and households below the poverty line.
The “Social Plate” project, started in April 2018, aimed at addressing these persistent issues by promoting territorial cohesion through the creation and promotion of social enterprises in Greece and Bulgaria. These enterprises have not only employed people who have been long-term unemployed but have also provided food to vulnerable groups such as the disabled and elderly. Taking an environmentally conscious approach, this has involved distributing products that would have otherwise been wasted.
Merchants of the Central Market of Thessaloniki delivered non-marketable products to the Social Plate every day, and, under the supervision of the quality control officer, the goods were separated between those suitable for consumption and those that were not. The suitable ones were repackaged (the original packaging of the products was reused instead of being discarded) with the help of volunteers from the agencies that benefit from the project. Social agencies of the region (Social Grocery Stores, Non-Governmental Organisations, Church Kitchens, Collectives, etc.) that were working with the project, received the recovered products and distributed them, cooked or fresh, to vulnerable groups. Thus, the homeless, the unemployed, refugees, and anyone in need of a plate of food could get just that, thanks to the all the volunteers working with “Social Plate”.
Cross-border area between Greece and Bulgaria.
The project was financed in the framework of the INTERREG Greece-Bulgaria 2014-2020 programme, under the priority axis 4 “A socially inclusive cross-border area”, with an ERDF contribution of around €450 000. The project was led by Central Market of Thessaloniki S.A. (EL), who also ideated the project, Technopolis, the International Educational Institute (EL) and two Bulgarian partners, namely the NGO “Active Youths” and the Municipality of Borino (BG). The food came from the Central Market of Thessaloniki and is distributed on both sides of the Greek and Bulgarian border. The project officially ended in December 2019 but partners have expressed their willingness to continue with the food distribution. In fact, the Central Market of Thessaloniki still coordinates food distribution activities and updates the project’s Facebook page regularly about food availability.
The main results of the project are:
- “Food Angels” platform, where social cooperatives and companies can donate their surplus food;
- the “Social Plate platform”, the website and the Facebook page which are updated daily about available quantities;
- the “Social Food Support Civil Non-Profit Partnership” between Thessaloniki Central Market and Technopolis, which aims to reduce food waste, promote recycling and fight malnutrition;
- the establishment of a social enterprise in Bulgaria through the cross-border transfer of a social enterprise from one country to another.
- With more than 60 agencies in the food distribution network, about 400 tons of food were offered to more than 65 vulnerable social groups, reaching more than 15,000 people.
More information on https://www.socialplate.eu/en