Food is a basic human need irrespective of gender, race, age, disability or sexuality. According to United Nations, food is a human right that implies everyone has the right to be free from hunger and malnutrition by having economic and physical
access to adequate food on a daily basis. Food consumption and production are tightly linked to other human rights such as
right to equality, right to life, liberty, personal security and freedom from slavery.
Since the beginning of humankind, we have produced, transformed, and exchanged food. Food-sharing practices have
become a nonverbal symbol of kindness, respect, and love. In decades past, people from countries with political, ethnic,
religious, climatic, and socio-economic conflicts around the world have been seeking better lives in Europe. It appears that cuisines from all over the world have been easier and faster to integrate into our societies than people from minority groups.
Thus, food has become a medium to foster intercultural exchanges and integration of migrants and refugees and promote social inclusion of people at risk of exclusion. With this project we want to tap into an unexploited opportunity to utilize food-sharing methods to engage youth with diverse backgrounds in intercultural dialogue and foster social inclusion of disadvantaged youth.
Mental health issues experienced by youth in Europe has been rising rapidly during past decades with youth experiencing
stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness. A recent publication from UNICEF concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic has
posed an even greater risk to young people’s mental health. This is especially due to the strategic measures many countries
in Europe have taken – primarily social distancing, which has caused increased levels of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and
depression. It is therefore crucial that we utilize innovative approaches and methodologies to reach youth at risk of social exclusion to enhance their emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
Our mental health is constantly affected by the world around us – it is influenced by conflicts, diseases, poverty, and
discrimination. Thus, we believe that the increase in mental health issues is not an individual problem, nor a national
problem, but a problem that requires joint action through cooperative partnerships. Young people should not stand alone
when facing stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Instead, we need to create safe spaces for dialogue for youth to
share their experiences, thoughts, and stories with the purpose of empowering them through a sense of belonging and being
a part of a community.
Based on the assumption that food relations and food awareness add value for societies by fostering social cohesion,
increasing mental and physical wellbeing and protecting the environment, all partners have found it crucial to use innovative food-based methods to create safe spaces for intercultural dialogue among youth on a local and European level.
Together with the work packages, multiplier events and training described we plan to deliver the following results:
1) Support active citizenship of young people: Through the training and dialogue dinners we expect to create a sense of
citizenship, empowering youth to engage in discussions relevant on a local and European level. Participants will become
active speakers in their communities, reflecting and sharing their lived experiences in safe spaces with peers on topics that transcend national borders. We want to strengthen their sense of social responsibility and initiative by actively encouraging them to consider and discuss the consequences of climate change or discrimination. We hope their initiatives inspired by the dialogue dinners will benefit their communities.
2) Improve youth’s mental and physical wellbeing: We expect that the skills youth will acquire through the training and
participating in the dialogue dinners will support their personal, social, and educational development. We believe that
sharing stories with peers from diverse backgrounds can enhance youth’s feelings of community and belonging, which can
reduce loneliness, stress, and depression. Furthermore, we expect that the project will have a positive impact on the
participants’ physical wellbeing with healthy seasonal food recipes; being a part of a community will make us more resilient during difficult times in our lives.
3) Foster social inclusion of marginalized youth: We want to foster social inclusion by reaching the growing number of youth at risk of social exclusion. With this project, we aim to develop innovative food-based methods to engage youth in
intercultural dialogue that contributes to the social inclusion of marginalized youth, who are affected by poverty, disabilities, discrimination, or mental health issues. By participating in the dialogue dinners, they will gain social and professional competencies that we expect can strengthen their employability.
4) Combat discrimination and intolerance among youth: Our objective is to engage youth with different social, economic, or
racial backgrounds in intercultural dialogue by creating a safe space to share thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Due to their diverse backgrounds, we expect that they will have different or opposing opinions on topics discussed during the dinners.
We are confident that this will promote tolerance, anti-discrimination and that the youth participating in the dialogue dinners will recognize the value of diversity in their communities and on a broader scale in Europe.