One solution can "feed" multiple benefits

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preparing foodWomen prepare food for a soup kitchen in a kindergarten in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Photo: Tomislav Georgiev / UNDP fYR Macedonia

Early every morning in the southern town of Demir Kapija, 15 people on social welfare arrive at the soup kitchen that has been established in a local kindergarten to pick up prepared meals, including warm pies and traditional stews. On Fridays they receive packages to help them get through the weekend.

One 70-year-old grandfather comes every day to collect meals for himself and his wife. “At first it was a bit uncomfortable collecting food because it’s a small town and we all know each other,” he says. “But poverty makes you forget about shame. And at least in this way we are not a burden on our children.”

The local kindergarten hired two kitchen assistants from amongst local unemployed people to help prepare food for the needy. The soup kitchen has enabled the kindergarten to welcome more pupils, while also helping local people on social welfare by providing them with free hot meals.

This approach, which our UNDP team designed and implemented together with the municipality in 2015, has yielded multiple benefits:

• support for some of the poorest people in the municipality
• valuable work experience for long-term unemployed, and
• improved services for children at one of the local kindergartens.

The Demir Kapija soup kitchen is precisely the kind of “double win” that our Community Works Program was established to create.

The beauty of the program is that it tackles two of the country’s biggest development challenges at the same time. It helps municipalities to weave a social safety net for the most vulnerable members of the population, while also providing valuable job skills for people trying to enter the labor market. With rural municipalities struggling to provide sufficient social services and unemployment currently at 23%, this is a particularly valuable combination.

Take Kostadinka Velkova, one of the previously unemployed people who gained experience through the project and has since continued working in the kitchen.
“It’s been a new start for me and for my family. I come home fulfilled knowing that I’m doing something for myself and my child while also helping others in need.”

The soup kitchen is just one of dozens of projects implemented as part of the Community Works Programme. The program has been especially successful because it allows each participating municipality to focus on its own particular area of concern, such as day care for persons with disabilities or preschool for children with working parents.

Over 10,000 people in 42 municipalities have so far benefited from the services provided through the Community Works Program. And now that the program is in its third year, we see that it is also a quiet engine for gender equality, since 75% of the people who gain work experience are women, and most services provided substitute for the unpaid care work that is traditionally shouldered by women.

For us, the soup kitchen is a great reminder that sometimes a single solution can deliver multiple benefits.

Blog post Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable development Communities and local development Food security Jobs and livelihoods Poverty reduction and inequality Goal 1 No poverty Goal 11 Sustainable cities and communities North Macedonia

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