President’s ambassadors combat food insecurity


Each year members of the President’s Ambassador Program are tasked with completing a legacy project that aligns with the President’s Pillars and/or University priorities. This year’s focus was on food insecurity faced by students and the community.

The president’s Ambassador Program is for current York University undergraduate and graduate students with unique perspectives who seeking opportunities to represent the University and share their experiences with fellow students, staff, faculty and alumni.

Every year, they have the opportunity to pursue a project that will positively impact the University beyond their tenure. “The Ambassador Program provides an excellent platform for ambassadors to disseminate, exhibit, and implement ideas inspired by their peers,” says Ijade Maxwell Rodrigues, chief of Government and Community Relations & Protocol, who oversees the program. “This initiative frequently catalyzes sustained efforts from campus partners, yielding tangible benefits for the York community.”

President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with the current cohort of President's ambassador
President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton with the current cohort of president’s ambassador

The current cohort decided to combat food insecurity among the student population on York U’s campuses and beyond by promoting access to existing services, resources, and other initiatives. After meeting with the Food Services department to pitch and brainstorm ideas, they settled on a plan that mimics the department’s Teaching Kitchen model.

Teaching Kitchen is a cooking class for students that combines nutrition education, mindfulness, culinary instruction using healthful whole ingredients while also addressing food insecurity. A certified chef leads students on the method and technical skills of cooking while a registered dietitian enriches the experience by teaching students students about the nutritional facts of the recipe and offering ingredient alternatives for those with restrictions and intolerances with the aim of improving wellness through food.

President's ambassadors learning cooking

The ambassadors sought to develop a food workshop that would allow students with limited funds to create a nutrient-dense, healthy, budget-conscious yet delicious dish. Working with Executive Chef Frederic Pouch and registered dietitian Dahlia Abou El Hassan, the ambassadors were able to create a French-style salad with ingredients commonly found at York Federation of Students’ food support centre, which is available to all students at York University. Abou El Hassan believes this initiative helps address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. “It helps increase food literacy and empower students to make nutritious and affordable recipes in a hands-on environment,” she says.

The ambassadors hosted two successful workshops on April 3, where students engaged in hands-on activities such as chopping, mixing, and tasting their own culinary creations. Those unable to secure a workshop seat were provided with valuable tips, tricks, and resources. Additionally, curious bystanders had the opportunity to enjoy complimentary samples.

Tom Watt, director of Food & Vending Services, expressed gratitude for the collaboration: “We are truly honored that the President’s Ambassadors Program chose to partner with us, recognizing the many excellent campus initiatives available. This partnership underscores the significant work Dahlia and our team are doing, and we are thrilled by the community’s positive response and the ongoing value of the Teaching Kitchen program.” 

The President’s Ambassador program is currently accepting applications for 2024-25. The deadline to apply is May 6.

Learn more about the President’s Ambassadors Program and Teaching Kitchen.