Elaine’s love language is food, but also food and language, as separate topics, are both of great importance to her; everyone eats and everyone communicates with others, but there are often barriers to both of these universals. Elaine explored these topics at UCLA while majoring in Linguistics and Asian Languages and Cultures and minoring in Food Studies and Environmental Systems and Society, graduating magna cum laude in 2020. Her interest in food security deepened as a result of working with the community gardens on campus, serving as a Teaching Assistant for an undergraduate course on urban agriculture, volunteering as a Master Gardener of Los Angeles County, and improving models of sustainable food systems as a Food Security Intern at the Center for Sustainable Development in The Bahamas. After returning to her hometown of Stockton, California, Elaine started a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for folks to go beyond their good intentions and create meaningful change in their communities.
Field placement: Seven Valleys Health Coalition
Cortland, New York
Elaine worked with Seven Valleys Health Coalition in Cortland, New York, to determine meaningful ways for the organization to engage with community members with lived or living experience of food insecurity. Elaine’s work included developing communication strategies for the Seven Valleys Food Rescue Program. This involved designing a storytelling initiative which aims to establish partnerships with food donor and recipient organizations, mobilize volunteers, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the food rescue program. In addition to gathering stories, Elaine fostered the development of regional food system networks through her involvement in the Cortland Food Project and the Hunger Coalition.
Policy placement: Intertribal Agriculture Council
Elaine Zhang is working with the Intertribal Agriculture Council to ensure that Native leaders and producers have a voice in the policymaking process. Elaine will be supporting the work of the Native Farm Bill Coalition by collecting policy priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization and analyzing proposed bill language related to the Farm Bill, nutrition, agriculture, and other issues in Indian Country, more generally.