Padilla DE+I Collective: Q&A With Culinary Dietitian Sherene Chou

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis two years ago raised awareness of the urgent need for greater diversity, equity and inclusion (DE+I) initiatives. These calls were particularly strong within the communications field, and while Padilla had begun its DE+I program in earnest in 2019, the George Floyd tragedy, which happened only a few miles from Padilla’s headquarters, compelled us to accelerate our efforts. 

Padilla established a Diversity + Inclusion Council to ensure we are being intentional in creating a more diverse work environment. The Council – with guidance from Senior Leadership – focuses on the following key areas: Recruitment, Training, Retention and Content, which includes content we develop for ourselves and our clients. DE+I client counsel is part of work we provide within our Corporate Advisory Group – and specifically, the Social Impact team.

To supplement Padilla’s internal expertise, we assembled the DE+I Collective comprised of external advisors to help ensure an inclusive and culturally appropriate approach to public relations and communications for our agency and clients. Throughout the year, we will be profiling Collective members to shine a light on their expertise, experiences and the immense value they bring to Padilla. 

Sherene Chou is an award-winning dietitian and chef focused on sustainable food and plant-based nutrition, and has been a member of Padilla’s DE+I Collective for two years. Currently, she works as a sustainable nutrition consultant for plant-based brands and teaches at California State University, Los Angeles and University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a second-generation Chinese American born and raised in Los Angeles. As a culinary dietitian, I’ve been working across the food system for over a decade with diverse communities focused on sustainability, nutrition education and culinary literacy. My work has been focused on educating and empowering health professionals to build a more equitable, culturally inclusive food system. 

Why did you join the Collective?

After learning more about the DE+I Collective, I was excited to be a part of a company that is authentically invested in building strategies, communication and education internally and externally to engage in DE+I work. This is my second year as a member and it’s been wonderful to help add value to Padilla and the clientele. I’ve learned from other Collective members who bring different perspectives and knowledge to each project through our unique lenses. It has been a fun and impactful way to transform how brands show up in this space. 

Can you share what sustainability and social justice mean to you?

As a dietitian and healthcare practitioner, it’s critical to understand these intersections and the different dimensions of sustainable diets in the food system (planetary, nutrition, economic and sociocultural). Often, when discussing sustainability and health, planetary health and nutrition are the main focuses while neglecting to address economic and sociocultural aspects. To build a sustainable food system, we must engage in food and social justice. Food needs to be accessible, affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate for all. We can not truly transform the food system without addressing all four dimensions of sustainable diets. 

What is the most challenging and rewarding part of your work as a dietician, chef and consultant?

Because I work across the food system, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of organizations to tackle the same issue from different angles, all focused on building a more equitable food system. It has been incredibly rewarding to see organizations invest in programs that impact our communities. 

What are a few things we can all do to help contribute to a more just and sustainable food system?

Invest in your community to create more accessible food options. You can start by learning about initiatives with your local food policy council. They may be working on implementing community fridges, food waste reduction, or dollar match programs at farmer’s markets for affordable produce. 

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