Growing a Sustainable Food System in Diverse Communities

Written by Claudia Li.

One of my first memories as a kid was running into the backyard as a five year old, finding my Ah Poh (maternal grandmother) ankle-deep in the dirt humming Hakka folk songs and tending to a vine of tomatoes. I remember staring at her with curiosity as she looked up at me with her wrinkly grin and straw-woven hat tilted to the side. They say smell is the strongest sense—and it must be true—because every time I get a whiff of vine-ripened tomatoes, that memory resurfaces. Looking back, I’ve realized that this was the first moment I learned that food comes out of the ground. Ah Poh also took me to Chinatown every weekend to buy fresh choi at the local markets, teaching me the different names of not only the produce, but also the names of the grocers who she always greeted with boisterous conversation. It felt like she had a community.  

That’s what she spent most of her time doing—growing and gathering food to feed and nourish her nine grandchildren. For me, memories around family and the meaning of culture has always centred on food.