It’s true that food connects people- it brings together friends and family and a reason for regular gatherings. But it can be more than that.
Food has a social aspect, an economic one; and Wise Greece reminds us that in time of crisis it also becomes a necessity for some. It’s connected to the economy and the social character of each country.
Wise Greece tries to combine these two exact things, while raising social awareness.
Successfully, I must say.
It’s a nonprofit social organisation, which promotes Greek products, supports local producers and uses profits to help the unprivileged.
Melina Taprantzi, founder of this brilliant initiative talks to Greek City Times and explains how Wise Greece works, its philosophy and goals, how people reacted to it initially, plus what products you can find and where.
“Our aim is twofold; we assist the Greek small artisan producers, who were seeing their sales dropping, to promote their products while helping people to have the very basic of human needs. Food.”
Wise Greece’s quite inspiring approach brings small businesses and farmers closer to the market- through branding and social activities that aid both the economy and those in need. In essence, reminding us that economy and society are two interdependent cycles.
It’s important to stress that Wise Greece was awarded by Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the President of the Hellenic Republic, with the ‘Models of Excellence 2015’.
“We could not stand by and do nothing,” says Melina
What is Wise Greece and what does it do?
Wise Greece is a nonprofit social enterprise that promotes Greek products both within Greece and internationally, using profits to buy foods to offer to soup kitchens, the elderly, children, families, orphanages and those in need.
Hence, the aim is twofold; we assist the Greek small artisan producers to promote and export their products so that they can become sustainable and offer jobs to others, while helping people to have the very basic of human needs… food! It is worth noting that Wise Greece never donated money, only food items and simultaneously promotes the benefits of the Greek diet all over the world.
What is its mission and philosophy?
The idea of Wise Greece was conceived about 3 years ago. We wanted to create a social enterprise, a concept which abroad is well known but not so much in Greece and is still in its infancy.
Realising that more and more people are striving to find food in rubbish dumps and that soup kitchens and orphanages, are finding it difficult to provide food to those in need, we could not stand by and do nothing. On the other hand, Greek producers who create and produce magnificent products were seeing their sales drop and their dreams crushed.
So we thought that if we bring together Greek producers, motivate and inspire them to collaborate so that we can promote Greek products and do good by using profits to feed those in need! In other words, we could help the soup kitchens and orphanages of our country with a sustainable working model rather than donations.
So the idea of WG was born! To become a haven for those in need and to provide them with the basic privilege of food; and the number of these people unfortunately is multiplying in our country.
To showcase the worthy Greek efforts, the culture, the civilization through the one thing we know so well… food! To introduce consumers over the world to the benefits of the healthy Greek diet so they may become ambassadors of our effort.
Was this initiative welcomed by local producers and people in general? Do consumers support your mission?
In the beginning it was indeed difficult for producers to trust us. The concept of social entrepreneurship as well as the ambitious aim for cooperation are new to Greece, so some producers were skeptical if the project would work. Today, 100 producers support Wise Greece and another 70 are ready to be welcomed into our team by the end of 2017!
Products that proudly carry the “Wise Greece sticker” are placed in especially designed corners of all kinds of food stores, delis, mini markets, restaurants, etc in Greece as well as 8 other countries. Also, they are available online via partners with e-shops whereby consumers can purchase high quality Greek products for everyday use and at the same time knowing that with every purchase they are helping someone in need to have a decent meal.
It’s simple but crucial! Wise Greece’s success is based on the fact that it doesn’t ask for donations or any kind of financial funding. We are only asking that you try Greek foods with your loved ones, thus helping us offer to those in need of yet another meal. And that is, at the end of the day, what consumers understand and warmly support.
The Mediterranean diet has multiple benefits. Is this something you aim to communicate globally through Wise Greece?
It is well known that the Mediterranean diet has multiple benefits for our health. What is less known is that the Greek diet is not only kebabs, gyros, moussaka and tzatziki. We are striving to let it be known that Greece produces the finest of olive oils, amazing honeys that can’t be found elsewhere in the world, organic herbs that have unique aromas and tastes and a whole selection of other products that are not only delicious but also healthy. After all, it is the cuisine of Greece that every tourist remembers from their trip to our country. It’s not that we are better cooks, it’s all about the ingredients, and we only cook with the finest that this blessed land has to offer. That is what we are offering to people through Wise Greece.
Do you organise campaigns in order to help people in need?
We try to donate foods to small orphanages and soup kitchens. It is a thought out and calculated choice, since in this way we can communicate the specific needs of each charitable institution and people can understand those needs and even donate foods themselves! Unfortunately, it is often that one might live just across the street from an orphanage and not even know it is there. At the same time, we organise events, such as cooking and delivering hot meals to the homeless and the refugees that currently live in Greece.
Do you think –especially nowadays- the need of such initiatives are crucial?
They are essential, especially now that nearly 3.000.000 people in Greece live close or below the poverty line. On the one hand, Wise Greece has managed to donate over 10 tons of foods to people in poverty. That means that those who received our donations didn’t have to look for food in rubbish bins.
On the other, the growth of social entrepreneurship in our country can have multiple benefits, just as in other countries. Through such efforts, social problems are tackled and the government doesn’t have all the burden on them, unemployment is reduced, new opportunities for investments are created for small entrepreneurs thus having that investment stay in the country, creating great benefits. Such efforts are essential to the solution of social problems but also to create new opportunities for the suffering Greek economy.
What kind of products can we find?
Greek producers have made giant steps to showcase their culinary creations. Apart from the “classic” options, consumers can find quite a few innovative products ranging from olive oils and honeys with gold leaves, to Greek cocktails based on Ouzo or Tsipouro (the Greek traditional drinks), honey spreads with nuts, handmade jams, marmalades without sugar, salt mixes, gluten free products, creative spreads and sauces, Greek coffee with mastic or rose, countless options for olives, organic herbs, drinks, pasta, and even handmade soaps and natural cosmetics. We strive to promote the best our country produces and up to now there are more than 1500 products available through Wise Greece.
Are there products that have been made exclusively for Wise Greece?
We have created exclusive ranges of products for Wise Greece in close cooperation with producers. Together we were inspired by the traditional Greek tastes and hidden treasures of the Greek soil. With “Simply Greek” we created a range of sauces and spreads with the highlights being “Greek salad in a jar”, “Moussaka in a jar” ,“Stuffed Tomatoes in a jar” and Bouyiorndi – Spicy Pepper & Feta cheese all inspired by traditional Greek dishes! Some of the products from this range have achieved taste awards too, such as Great Taste Awards and Olymp Taste Awards.
With the nonprofit company “Chain of Hope”, we have created a range of Greek aromatic coffees, with the company “Pure with Love”, a range of pasta products with flavors such as Hot with Chili and Carob and garlic! And we are developing new ranges of exclusive products, always for a good cause.
Where can we find these products in Greece and abroad?
In delis, butchers, food stores, mini markets and of course online. Just check our website!