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General News

THI’s $25,000 for ‘FoodOn’ Brings Those Suffering from Poverty to the Table

ATHENS – The Hellenic Initiative (THI) has provided the non-profit FoodOn with a $25,000 grant in support of its programs that enable young Greeks to emerge from unemployment and poverty to financial independence and inclusion in society.

FoodOn focuses on job training of individuals for the food and beverage industry, a market with high demand and relatively low barriers to entry. With THI’s $25,000 gift, FoodOn can hire a training manager who will assist in job placement and other aspects of FoodOn’s work.

In addition to job placement, FoodOn focuses on a lesser understood dimension of poverty – social exclusion. FoodOn has developed a simple and powerful tool for fighting it: social dining.

Approximately every three weeks, FoodOn organizes meals for 16 of its clients to dine with 16 non-FoodOn clients, “people from other organizations we work with and who want to help,” FoodOn Founder Argyris Zannias said. The diners don’t know each other – or one another’s social status. They meet sitting at those tables, enjoying a good meal and friendly conversation. Over 5,760 people have benefited from FoodOn’s job placement and social dining programs to date.

Social exclusion is a byproduct of poverty, as the impoverished lose confidence and self-esteem and cut themselves off from friends and society as a whole. Their ability to network and pursue other job seeking activities are also affected. FoodOn’s philosophy is that Social Dining, where everyone comes together at the dinner table as equals, helps on multiple levels.
Zannias knows the several dimensions of poverty firsthand. After his studies, he volunteered with organizations that alleviated hunger in Athens and then started FoodOn, 10% of the expenses of which he funds personally.

The social dining program and job placement goals of FoodOn work hand in hand. “They learn valuable social skills at the dinner table. They learn how to better communicate with different kinds of people,” Zannias said, adding, “but the process has benefits for all who participate. Each table has a moderator, usually a non-beneficiary. All really become beneficiaries, and in a couple of hours they move towards building a community.”

Zannias said, “THI believes in us and is helping us to grow. Their latest grant will help across all our endeavors because its $25,000 donation will fund for one year the salary of our project manager who organizes social dining, and it will also contribute to training and helping 12 people find jobs.”

Those who want to help may send an email to: [email protected] They will also receive FoodOn Calls to Action.

George Stamas, THI Board President, stated: “THI is proud to support FoodOn’s job placement and innovative social dining mission. With work and a steady income, a person can return to the community from which he or she had been cut off.”

Andrew Liveris, THI Board Chairman stated: “FoodOn addresses both the practical and sometimes overlooked human elements of poverty. It helps people get that important first job and gives them an opportunity to restore their sense of dignity.”

More information is available online: thehellenicinitiative.org
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