An interview by Planted Food Network



As we explore who is involved in providing nutritious food in ways that foster community and build on the strengths of the vulnerable, let us introduce you to…

Elaine Cheng is a Food Consultant, Nutrition Analyst, Educator, and an Entrepreneur from Vancouver. Surrounded by food tasting classes, she recently completed her Master in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. Afterwards she moved to the UK to teach cooking to vulnerable communities with the former Jamie Oliver Food Foundation where kids have never tasted juice from real fruit.

Why did you get interested in sustainable food?

Elaine: Learning about how we view food abundance in Europe and America is overwhelming. Shortly after, I took a trip to the villages of Guatemala and witnessed food and water scarcity. Comparing the two worlds fascinated me. Inspired by the range of innovative ideas around food and social impact currently existing in Europe, I wanted to bring some of these initiatives to Canada to start a conversation around food waste and redistribution. I started my company Food Connections to host events like Feeding the 5000 – a global communal feasting event made from surplus wasted food to raise awareness about the fact that 40% of all food produced is discarded.

Through your work, what changed in how you see food & poverty?  

Elaine: Hunger is not an issue of charity, but of justice. Through working with marginalized populations, I’ve come to realize it’s more of a poverty of relationships and dignity than it is a poverty of food, money, and shelter. There is more than enough food in this city, and in this world to go around, and the issue is way more complex than just donating food to charities. If we want to make an impact, we may need to take a little more time to learn the real gaps in the system by listening to the voice of all parties involved, so we know where to best divert resources (whether monetary or surplus food) to maximize convenience and efficiency on all levels. I believe food has the power to bring people together of all socioeconomic statuses and cultural backgrounds. We’ll learn to respect food a little more as we view it with a community lens rather than just a commodity in which we are entitled to having.

What do you need to keep going?

Elaine: I love sharing and building my networks through meeting people. Everyone has unique skills or networks that can contribute to this issue. We’ll need talents of all areas – the only requirement is that you’ll have to share the same passion.  At the moment, I’m specifically looking for people talented in tech (app development), system design, and an experienced grant writer/fundraiser. If you’re interested in chatting more about the food waste issue in Vancouver or have a creative idea brewing, I’d love to meet over coffee to bounce ideas.

Contact Elaine: