How Amy Win, economics student turned social entrepreneur, is breaking the mould using food as a way to improve lives and build communities.
Part 1 - 4Lunch is a social enterprise working with communities in Greater Manchester, delivering cookery courses, catering and food business training.
This is done through cookery workshops, training programmes, and work experience opportunities as well as street food markets and catering services for local Manchester neighbourhoods. 4 Lunch makes healthy eating and well-being accessible to everyone in a fresh, exciting and organic way.
She felt constricted by the requirements of the academic and working worlds, and didn’t feel like she naturally fit into that mould, even though she was on course for excellence. “I felt like my passions would have been crushed in that environment”, she said. “I’ve never worked in an office before in my whole life. I know I’d be ok at it, but I just wouldn’t be able to fulfil my potential there”.
Amy knew she had potential that could not be fulfilled in the conventional 9-5 way, but it felt hazy and undefined, like she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. As she reached the halfway point of her final year at university and faced her final exams, she experienced, what she describes in her refreshingly honest way, “a bit of a crisis”. Anybody coming to the close of studenthood without a clear step-by-step plan could easily relate to that feeling.
“I ended up at the volunteer fair at the Students’ Union by accident”, Amy laughs. “I happened to come across a charity based in the Northern Quarter for young people in crisis: homelessness, couch surfing, unemployment, substance abuse, that kind of thing...I started helping out with their employability groups and breakfast clubs. During that time, I got chatting to a manager at the charity who was eager to use a kitchen on the premises that was extremely well equipped. We could both see that this kitchen had scope for so much more than just a breakfast club. It was this lady who first mentioned the possibility of using it as a social enterprise”.
This was the first time Amy had heard “social” and “enterprise” used in the same sentence. The idea got her mind racing, and she became very curious about this new concept. Around that time, she spent hours at home googling every bit of information she possibly could about social entrepreneurship. She absorbed all of it, and became obsessed! With an enthusiastic sparkle in her eyes, she said, “it all made perfect sense. I was like, oh my goodness, this is what I want to do with my life!” This was uncanny; all it took was being in the right place at the right time. One conversation was all it took to get her started on her incredible journey. One thing led to another, and she began to apply for small bits of grant money and funding to get her idea off the ground. She had a vision to build a project that combined food and employability, using cookery as a medium to improve the chances of vulnerable people entering gainful employment.
Around that time, street food markets were rising in popularity in Manchester city centre and the surrounding areas. Students were a significant group that were benefiting from this. Amy took notice, and saw an opportunity to capitalise on this burgeoning street food culture. She was troubled by the way young people who have lost their footing in life often find it very difficult if not impossible to find their way back to normality.