Photo of Haleh Moravej

Haleh Moravej

Haleh Moravej has been nominated by Nickala Torkington of Flourish CIC. Nickala says “Haleh is the founder of MetMUnch, a global award-winning, student-led social enterprise based at Manchester Metropolitan University. At our heart is a passion for healthy, sustainable and nutritious food. Haleh started MetMUnch with £20 worth of vegetables from Smithfield market. We first met several years ago at the start of her journey into social enterprise. 2019 has marked a significant milestone in the culmination of her efforts coming to fruition.

MetMUnch is a platform for enterprise and knowledge exchange, both internally in the university and externally. Following the International and National EAUC Green Gown Award in 2014 for Student Engagement, MetMUnch has evolved from a successful pop-up platform into a dynamic, passionate social enterprise that forges commercial and community partnerships, whilst aligning itself with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Who have you helped/do you help?

Haleh says “We provide the skills and training to promote health and wellbeing. Our students and  graduates take this and apply it in sessions at university and community events, or in one-off creative projects, which range from on-the-spot nutritional advice and running pop-up stalls, to cooking nutritious meals and leading fun, interactive activities. MetMUnch is an extra-curricular organic enterprise.

MMU has five strategic themes: place, ambition, partnership, community and sustainability which MetMUnch has applied as a whole. They demonstrate the ambition, creativity and impact that characterises Manchester Metropolitan University.”

What’s worked?

Nickala says “Haleh conceived MetMUnch in 2011 to provide real life experiences and promote sustainable nutritious lifestyles. ‘Celebrity Chef’ auditions recruited 25 nutritionists who have enthused audiences to adopt healthier lifestyles. This group now has 133 active ‘MetMUnchers’, making food fun, connecting with the curriculum, and providing tremendous opportunity for peer-to-peer engagement.

MetMUnch enables students to gain, and then implement, creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial skills, by addressing health, ethical and environmental sustainability issues. Everything is carried out in a fun and engaging fashion, meaning students stay involved, inspired and are empowered to spread the word.Critically, the model is scalable and replicable with applications in academic, public and commercial arenas.

One example is of working closely with MMU’s Public Engagement Managers on projects including a training day for volunteers at the Chrysalis Family Centre, in Moss Side to help ensure children in the area get a healthier start in life. Julie Asumu from the Chrysalis project says “This training has not only equipped us with knowledge and ability to draw up a menu for a balanced diet for our nursery, it has also enabled us to advise parents on how to prepare simple balanced meals for their children.”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

Haleh says “I have learnt that by doing ethical and social enterprise I have to trust there is always something bigger than myself to believe in. The journey has not been easy but I have learnt I can overcome any challenge with determination, tenacity and resilience. By shining light on others, I will always be moving forward. Our lives are not about what we get but what we give, and how much of what we give is given with not wanting anything in return.

As an ethnic minority woman, the opportunities for growth have been limited but I created something unique for the students that now has inspired many other female and male students to do something with their own lives. I had to take the less travelled path. Big organisations like universities are super hard to navigate, and there are always barriers for anyone doing things differently.

The students have inspired me continuously because I want them to gain, and then implement, creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial skills, by addressing health, ethical and environmental sustainability issues.

Everything is carried out in a fun and engaging fashion, meaning students stay involved, inspired and are empowered to spread the word. I live my best authentic life. What I have learnt is that we survive and we finally go beyond the tipping point. Then we become role models for others and we drop the rope down for other females to climb up and feel empowered.”

What’s next?

“Two months ago, we launched our GROW meat-free café in the North Atrium of Business School at MMU,  after 3 months of backbreaking work during summer.  GROW has been cultivated from a collaboration between two teams at Manchester Met Uni. MetMUnch used  nutritional expertise and creativity to develop Manchester’s newest meat free offering alongside the innovative Catering Team.
Students who work at GROW serve 38,000 students and 5400 staff healthy, locally sourced, nutritious and affordable food every single day.

There are no other University catering outlets where students are fully in charge and driving transformational change in the entire institution. We will continue with our GROW idea and expand to launch a new farmers market, grow vegetables on campus and create a place for all creatives and social entrepreneurs to gather and think of innovative solutions to the problems of our planet and people. This is just the beginning and it has taken us ten years to get here!”

What help, resources or contacts will help her?

“I always need strong female role models to guide and support me. Enterprise is a lonely journey so any good person one meets is a wonderful blessing. I received my big break with £5000 from UnLtd in 2014. They believed in me and gave me the break that no one would offer me at University. Therefore I feel I want to give back rather than take anything.

I have risen above the expectations of others and have made great progress in showing the world the beauty and strength of femininity, all thanks to Flourish CIC. I love the community and I love how the women support each other.  I crave security but I guess my best work is done when I have none. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better” has been my ultimate fuel of creativity.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in the North!