Elric Nielsen is fed up with hunger. As general manager of Sodexo Canada’s foodservice operations at Bow Valley College in Calgary, Elric has cooked up a number of ways to fight hunger in his community and across the country. In fact, his appetite for change is so strong, he’s been officially crowned a hero.

Elric was named the 2016 Hero of Everyday Life by Sodexo Canada’s Stop Hunger Foundation. The annual award honours Sodexo employees who have made a real difference in reducing hunger in their community. The best part? The award comes with a $3,000 grant to be donated to any charity the hero chooses – in this case, 1000 Women Rising, a Bow Valley College initiative that helps women pursue their dream careers.

Helping the homeless

Elric established a lunch program at the “DI,” a drop-in centre for homeless people. Bow Valley College and Sodexo volunteers regularly serve up more than 1,000 nutritious lunches to those in need.

“Partnering with the drop-in centre right next to us really got things started,” says Elric. “As our staff began volunteering there, they got more comfortable serving the homeless. More opportunities to help feed those in need started coming across our desk – it was like a domino effect.”

Feeding our future

And so the dominoes fell. Elric now leads Calgary’s largest summer lunch program for underprivileged children. The Stop Hunger Foundation’s Feeding our Future initiative brings together volunteers from Bow Valley College, community partners and vendors, and Sodexo, to whip up thousands of free, healthy lunches for disadvantaged children in summer camps across the city.

A culinary welcome

The arrival of more than 1,400 Syrian refugees prompted Elric to team up with Soup Sisters of Calgary. Together they mobilized the Calgary community to mix up Middle Eastern soup recipes at the Bow Valley College kitchen facility. The result? Six thousand tasty servings of soups warmed the homes of Syrian newcomers.

Elric Soups

And because that wasn’t enough for him, Elric also partnered with the Calgary Islamic School to organize a special picnic for the children of Syrian refugees last summer.

“As we are a foodservice provider, fighting hunger is a natural fit for us,” says Elric. “It really doesn’t feel like much effort.”

Elric Syrian kids

TOP PHOTO: The Sodexo team gears up for their Soups for Syrians event. L to R: Ladan Lahyavi, Phil Petit, Linsey Serritt, Cameron Serritt, Elric Nielsen, Dana Petit, Ethan Petit, and Hesin Abraham.

MIDDLE PHOTO: Yum! Six thousand soups served up a warm welcome for Syrian refugees.

BOTTOM PHOTO:  Children of Syrian refugees enjoy a tasty, summer picnic.

All photos courtesy Elric Nielsen.

Author

Prasanthi Vasanthakumar is a communications specialist at Restaurants Canada, where she writes articles, blog posts, newsletters and press releases that tell our industry's story. When she’s not communicating with members and the media, she’s watching quality TV shows like The Bachelor and chasing rabbits away from her tulip garden.