December 2, 2020

IVLP Alumna Paves the Way for Sustainable Food Consumption Across the Globe

Exchange alumna Melina Taprantzi is dedicated to supporting those in need while shaping the global food industry for the better. She is the founder of Wise Greece, a social enterprise that invests in quality Greek food products by helping small businesses enter into the Greek marketplace. And, this year, Melina was one of seven women selected globally to receive the World Bank and the United Nations’ prestigious SDGs + Her award for her work in sustainable development.

Wise Greece works by supporting small farmers and producers in growing and exporting their own products, and, in turn, donating portions of their sales to soup kitchens and families who often lack access to quality, healthy food. For every product sold, the Greek producer provides a percentage of their profit to Wise Greece to raise funds and provide food for citizens in need. 

In addition to her recent award, Melina’s non-profit organization has elicited national recognition, winning the prestigious “Models of Excellence” award from the President of the Greek Republic, as well as the Start Up award for sustainability and social contribution. Melina says her interest in social sustainability can be traced back to her International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange experience, focusing on Social Responsibility and Innovation. She realized a need to combat malnutrition in her home country, and, continuing her experience as a 2019 Fellow with the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI), Melina discovered a solution lay in the unique intersection between sustainable food production and brand marketing.

In 2013, amidst Greece’s worst financial and social crisis of modern history, Melina visited a local social grocery store where underprivileged citizens came to access basic food and clothing supplies. Upon seeing the only available product offering at the time was razors, Melina knew she must do something. At the same time she was aware that Greek farmers were yielding amazing food products but didn’t necessarily know how to market them to consumers. This led to the founding of Wise Greece.

Today Wise Greece works with over 100 small producers to strengthen brand reputation and awareness of 2,500 products to be sold in both national and global markets. Reaching consumers in eight countries, Wise Greece has drawn on sales of these products to donate over 50 tons of food to orphanages, soup kitchens, and charitable institutions alike. 

Reflecting on her career path and interest in social entrepreneurship, Melina notes that her exchange experience was life changing. “I met American social entrepreneurs and startuppers who focus on social innovation, and this helped me to identify the similarities and differences between the European and American social enterprises.” She also forged invaluable friendships along the way, noting, “I had the chance to travel around the US with a team of 16 amazing leaders from all over the world, with whom we share the same values and I consider today very close friends of mine.”

Wise Greece encapsulates both Melina’s commitment to achieving food sustainability and a desire to offer quality, healthy food to underprivileged citizens across Greece and the globe. To learn more about the work of Wise Greece, visit their website.