TWU alumna raises awareness for global food security and eradication of poverty

"Poverty is an issue that stems from multiple factors and needs to be addressed holistically. ...It is possible for one person to make a huge difference."
— Melanie Olfert, Master of Arts in Leadership

Melanie Olfert first became interested in international development after several of her friends returned from a trip to Guatemala and began partnering with Food for the Hungry Canada (FH), based in Abbotsford. She heard stories of how communities were being transformed, and she saw changes in her friends’ lives as well.

Seeing and hearing about these positive changes made Olfert want to be part of this work. After pursuing a masters in leadership at TWU, she eventually went to work for FH as the Director of Public Engagement, inspiring Canadians to make a difference in the fight against global poverty.

Global food securtiy and COVID-19

Olfert observed that 2020 is a unique year when it comes to issues of poverty and food scarcity.

“In Canada, the impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented and far-reaching,” she said. “Food security issues have come to light for many people for the first time, and many Canadians have experienced food shortages or inability to access the products they take for granted.”

“For people living in areas of extreme poverty, the impact of the pandemic is devastating,” she stated.

Global food needs have also intensified during this year. “In many other countries there are no safety nets like health insurance and unemployment benefits,” Olfert explained.

“Our pandemic monitoring shows that FH-supported communities are experiencing higher than usual risk of food insecurity, due to significant income loss, reduced availability of seeds for planting and food for consumption, and restricted access to markets for buying and selling.”

Leveraging the resilience of people

Yet, Olfert sees hope in the strength of local communities. “The importance of community resilience has become more evident than ever during the COVID-19 crisis,” she shared.

In her work with FH, Olfert and her colleagues focus on the root issues of poverty. “It’s important to note that poverty is an issue that stems from multiple factors and needs to be addressed holistically,” she said. “FH is committed to an integrated, holistic approach to development, working in agriculture, education, health, livelihoods, and gender equality, as well as many other sectors.”

They also take a longer term approach. “FH walks alongside the most vulnerable communities throughout the world building long-term relationships—10 years or more—utilizing asset based community development,” said Olfert.

Olfert offers encouragement to local Canadians, “It is possible for one person to make a huge difference. And when people take small actions, and especially when they join together to partner with vulnerable communities, the progress is remarkable!”

How get involved helping with global food security

For anyone interested to learn more about global food security and to get involved in making a difference, Olfert recommended some great ways to start:

  • Educate yourself about the root causes of poverty and its solutions. Read “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steven Corbett, and hop onto an FH Ending Poverty Together online workshop to explore more about poverty and how to most effectively tackle things in your own community. Transforming your own understanding of poverty is a great first step!
  • Explore and engage organizations in Canada who are doing healthy helping. We are better together, and we know that collaboration will make us more effective. FH powers a site called Ending Poverty Together, featuring Canadians doing healthy poverty alleviation right here in Canada and globally. 
  • Support the charity you choose. Choose a local charity to donate your resources to – time and money. Working together makes the greatest impact.
  • Build relationships. Get to know your neighbours. Invest in your loved ones through time spent together. Take care of yourself. Spend time in, and take care of, nature. Take a look at the relationships you can reconcile every day. This is poverty alleviation!

Finally, Olfert encouraged Canadians by saying, "Thanks for caring about the most vulnerable and seeking ways to make a difference. We can end poverty together."

Read this story in the Langley Advance Times.

About Trinity Western University

Founded in 1962, Trinity Western University is Canada’s premier Christian liberal arts university dedicated to equipping students to establish meaningful connections between career, life, and the needs of the world. It is a fully accredited research institution offering liberal arts and sciences, as well as professional schools in business, nursing, education, human kinetics, graduate studies, and arts, media, and culture. It has five campuses and locations: Langley, Richmond-Lansdowne, Richmond-Minoru, Ottawa, and Bellingham, WA. TWU emphasizes academic excellence, research, and student engagement in a vital faith community committed to forming leaders to have a transformational impact on culture. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @TrinityWestern, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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