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Taking Climate Action — One Meal at a Time

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More than 750 people visited the first ever Eat for Our Future event at Royal Columbian Hospital. From June 7-9, 2022, attendees sampled food and talked about sustainability with staff, student volunteers, and food vendors, while learning about how to plan meals, buy and prepare food in environmentally sustainable ways.

“The dialogues, the multi-sensory experience and the laughs and fun we shared with attendees were very precious!” says Elaine Chu, who spearheaded the event. Elaine wears many hats within Fraser Health: she is a Registered Dietitian, and the Regional Manager of Food Operations at Royal Columbian Hospital and Eagle Ridge Hospital, and Chairperson of Lower Mainland Sustainable Hospital Food Operations Committee. She is also a Green+Leader.

With the health fair, Elaine married her extensive knowledge about food and food systems with her passion for climate action. Eat for Our Future was funded by a 2022 Sustainability Innovation Grant sponsored by the Energy and Environmental Sustainability team, in partnership with the Innovations Team at Fraser Health. The Environmental Sustainability stream provides an avenue for Green+Leaders to take climate action by submitting proposals for innovative ideas and new solutions.

“I think food is a great angle to connect people to the topic of sustainability because we all eat,” explains Elaine. With Eat for Our Future, the Royal Columbian Hospital Food Services team’s goal was to help the attendees learn about the interdependence of food, health and environment, and leave them feeling empowered to make sustainable food choices.

What we eat and how we eat hugely impacts the environment. The food system contributes to over 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and inefficiencies within the system are a significant source of waste: one third of food produced globally — approximately, 1.3 billion tons of food — is wasted every year. Our individual and collective food choices can directly improve planetary health.

Eat for Our Future championed three ways to eat for wellness and planetary health: 1) incorporating more plant-based foods into our diets; 2) reducing food waste; and 3) eating local and in season.

The hustle and bustle that energized the three days of the fair are a sign that Fraser Health staff and community members are eager about how they can take climate action through their food choices. Elaine was overjoyed by the level of engagement at the event and hopes that it has planted a seed for other sustainability dialogues and initiatives to happen within health care.

While food was Elaine’s platform for change, she knows that others can develop their own climate solutions by collaborating with their colleagues and combining their knowledge, resources, and motivation to make a better future. “I am sure with the many professions and disciplines we have in Fraser Health, there are unlimited platforms to promote planetary health.”