Our world is changing at a rapid pace – what does the future hold for the world of food?
Janice Leung Hayes is a food writer, social entrepreneur, and sustainability advisor of Taikoo Place’s Tong Chong Street Market (TCSM). She was also named “Inspiring Homegrown Entrepreneur” in the Women of Hope awards for her efforts in promoting food sustainability. So you can bet she has a lot to say about the how, what, and why we eat…
Hi Janice! Tell us, why are you so passionate about food?
JLH: Food is a fascinating and hugely informative window from which to see the world. Food fuels us on a nutritional level, but markets, farms, restaurants and bars are also a huge part of our cultural and social life. You can learn a lot about a way of life through the food people are, and were, eating.
What about the food scene in Hong Kong, in particular?
JLH: I met some local organic farmers while researching a story, and talking to them made me realise that there weren’t many farmers’ markets in the city. In fact, food producers and issues of food security (the ability to self-sustain as a city or nation) have been largely hidden from view in Hong Kong. The problem is, when we stop thinking about our food – where it comes from, who makes it, how it’s grown – it means that we’re gradually increasing our intake of highly processed foods and food grown without a care for environmental externalities.
But what can we do about it?
JLH: This is one reason why I started the Tong Chong Street Market with Swire Properties back in 2015. A fun and engaging farmers’ market like it is how I hope to make food front-of-mind again. We involve local organic farmers who sell whole foods, as well as restauranteurs and baristas to offer a variety of F&B experiences. It’s been an excellent springboard where they can meet face-to-face with customers, which have grown from a small, loyal group to a much wider customer base today. I see the kind of interactions enabled by the market as a form of education, as it tells people that there is an option to buy local, unprocessed food. It also creates a community of people who are health-conscious and interested in sustainable living and local consumption.
“All whole foods can be superfoods.”
What about our eating habits? How has that changed?
JLH: In general, I think attention to wellness is on the rise. The idea of superfoods emerged when our seemingly normal, everyday foods such as white bread and refined vegetable oils started making us sick. Whole foods, on the other hand, offer complete packages of nutrients – like vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and fats.
But, our modern lifestyles make it challenging to buy and cook a range of whole foods, so we have to look for other solutions. Dietary supplements, prepared foods enhanced with supplements, or packaged foods made with a more conscious combination of whole foods, these are all on the cards.
So we should be adding superfoods to our diets, then?
JLH: Well, there’s a lot of hype around “superfoods”, and the concept itself is very much marketing oriented. To me, all whole foods can be superfoods – anything that is grown with care and knowledge about the soil, water and air has a great deal of nutrients. It’s always best to strive for a balanced diet of whole foods rather than supplement a processed food diet with so-called superfoods in tablet form. Supplements can be helpful, but nutrients usually work best together, not alone, which is why whole foods fuel us in a more complete and helpful way.
In that case, what kind of food trends should we keep an eye on?
JLH: As we’re trending toward a more holistic approach to diet, people are rediscovering the health benefits of “regular” whole foods. Superfoods can be expensive because of marketing and shipping costs; while common ingredients, such as carrots, potatoes and celery, are cheap and can still have the superfood effect on your body as long as they’re eaten in their original forms. These foods have always been around but people had just forgotten about them since they seemed so unexciting. It’s time we tune back in and learn to appreciate food for its nutritional value.
What’s your favourite “superfood”?
Turmeric. I usually add a little to my scrambled eggs alongside a crack of black pepper – when eaten together, the turmeric is more bioavailable. When I feel like I might be getting a cold, I make a shot of turmeric with ginger, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and the tiniest bit of water. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever added to my diet to keep inflammation at bay!
Follow Janice on Instagram @e_ting for more. TCSM returns to Taikoo Place in November; in the meantime, read all about it here.
Stay tuned for more insight from our panel of tastemakers. Next instalment: The Future of Diversity with Kayla Wong.