Elissa Fong

Elissa Fong

Tell us about your background and why you chose UW?

I am a second generation Chinese American from Pasadena, California. My family is from Hong Kong where food is a big part of our culture. What drew me to UW was the broad range of subjects that I could study and the variety of unique classes offered in each major. When I was applying for colleges, I had no idea what I would choose as my major, so choosing a university that allowed me to explore my options was a strong factor. Furthermore, UW is a research-intensive university that highly encourages undergraduate students to get involved in research. I knew I wanted to be involved in some type of research, so I was excited for these opportunities and support offered at UW.

What influenced you to pursue the Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health Major?

I have always had a passion for cooking, eating, and learning about food. Coming from a Cantonese family, a distinct part of our food culture is in our tradition of soups. Ever since I was young whenever I had any type of ailment, my grandma or mom would immediately start boiling a pot of soup. There seemed to be a specific soup cure for any issue I had, each with a different combination of herbs, vegetables, or meat. Since then, I have had a passion for learning about food as medicine which led me to pursue the Food Systems major. I thought the interdisciplinary nature of the major was very unique. It encompasses the biological and health aspects of nutrition, the process of how food ends up on our plate, and the socioeconomic aspects that also have large influences on what and how we eat.

What has been the most compelling thing you’ve learned so far in the program?

I have learned in the program just how much I don’t know about where the food I eat originates. In NUTR 302, I did a project where I tracked the food I ate for two days, breaking down all the meals into spices and ingredients. I then researched and created a table with data about how the item was harvested, processed, transported, and ended up in my hands. Ultimately, a lot of my table was empty despite having done deep research. This activity made me realize just how much about food system processes are not known to most people. This challenged me to be more curious about what industries or ethics I am supporting through my food purchases.

How do you see yourself applying what you’ve learned after graduation?

Studying food systems has helped me be more thoughtful about what kinds of food I am putting into my body. It has made me more aware of the many different choices I have at the supermarket, and I now know what I personally want to buy and support when purchasing groceries.

What do you like to do for fun?

I really enjoy figure skating and am a member of the UW’s first figure skating team!  

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I really enjoy research and am currently conducting my own project through the UW Anthropology Department.  I am researching the relationship between European church construction rates and its economic and demographic implications during the Black Death.

What are your future goals?

After graduating from UW, I hope to pursue a Master of Public Health in community health-oriented practices or a PhD in anthropology. My goal is to become a professor in health communication so I may research the best methods of providing reliable and accessible health information to marginalized and underprivileged communities.            

What do you enjoy most about living in Seattle?

It’s a little silly, but I am obsessed with seeing how moss can grow in every nook and cranny in Seattle!  Whenever I see little pops of green poking out from trees, cracks on the road, or on the sides of buildings, it makes my day.

What advice would you give someone considering the Food Systems major?

Take the time to talk to your professors and TAs and go for every opportunity you can get! Through talking to my professors and TAs, I have been exposed to a lot of helpful advice and opportunities to be a part of many research projects. Even if the projects were not exactly in the field I was looking for, I have had so much fun, gained lots of transferable skills, and had very supportive mentorship. 

Interested in food, nutrition, or health as an undergraduate? Explore the Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health Major or Nutrition Minor.