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Volunteer Spotlight: Elaine Fok

California Food Literacy Center has been in existence for less than two years and we have accomplished a great deal. From teaching 120 kids every week to helping to pass a state-wide resolution naming September as Food Literacy Awareness month, among other things. We can’t do the work we do without the support of our amazing volunteers! This month, we are shining a veggie spotlight on the effervescent Elaine Fok. She is an integral part of our Food Literacy Month committee, and assists us as a star volunteer in food literacy class every week, sharing with us her knowledge and expertise on sustainable agriculture.

Currently finishing her M.S. in Entomology at Cornell University, her project has been investigating natural enemies of onion thrips and their potential for biological control.  Elaine fell in love with insects while conducting conservation research on wine grapes at a vineyard and naturally turned to entomology after getting her B.S. in Environmental Science. When she first moved to Sacramento, she wanted to get involved with the food movement and get a sense of the region’s food priorities.

“I was looking to transition from agricultural research in academia to outreach and education,” said Elaine. “When I heard about the California Food Literacy Center, I thought, ‘Here’s exactly what I want to do. Right now.’  It was such an exciting discovery, and it’s been so rewarding!”

Elaine grew up in the culturally and culinary diverse San Francisco Bay Area, and enjoyed traditional and nutritious Chinese food prepared by her mother. She counts her cultural heritage as well as the women in her life as her inspiration to explore food and agriculture through sustainable practices.

“My traditional Chinese diet exposed me to the importance of vegetables and exploring different foods,” Elaine said. “When I went to college, I realized that I had a chance to start making my own food choices.  Studying Environmental Science with a passion for sustainability, it was natural that my food choices reflected ideas I believed in.”

Throughout her college career, Elaine counts herself lucky to be plugged into the sustainable/alternative agriculture crowd and has taken classes that helped her shape her ideas about food and agriculture. She also admires progressive campuses that are establishing majors and minors in sustainable food systems or implementing actual sustainable practices on campus such as farm-to-fork in dining halls and composting waste. She realizes that most college students are not exposed to food literacy and they tend to go with cheap and fast options when it comes to food. Elaine hopes that more campuses will encourage healthy eating and make it easier for students to get whole grains, healthy proteins, and fruits and vegetables. She advises students to invest in their food because it’s the only thing that can fuel their bodies, besides sleep.

Her passion for food literacy goes beyond academia. Elaine lives and breathes food literacy! She talks about growing her own food, cooking, food myths, and food politics with her family and friends, and even strangers on the train.

“Food conversations should be interesting, introspective and informative.  Food literacy is about connecting people to what they eat and empowering them to make positive food choices,” said Elaine.

We couldn’t agree more!

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