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Richmond surgeon launches food truck as part of initiative to help people facing barriers to employment

The Cultivate food truck is the first project launched by ElevATE Society, a non-profit co-founded by a Richmond surgeon that aims to give profits back to local charities and help train and hire people facing barriers to employment

It began as a backyard conversation with friends – now a food truck, part of an initiative co-founded by a Richmond surgeon aimed at giving back to the community, is set to make its debut Thursday (Oct. 21).

The Cultivate food truck will be setting up, as a soft launch, outside Richmond Hospital on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with net profits from sales and tips going to Richmond Hospital Foundation’s Richmond health care staff education fund and CHIMO Community Services.

Everything on the menu is made from scratch and from locally-sourced ingredients. Menu items include a chili roasted vegetable burrito, turkey pot pie, daily soup and vegan chili.

The food truck is the first of three projects under the ElevATE Society, recently co-founded by Dr. Sharadh Sampath, head of general surgery at Richmond Hospital.

The idea behind the non-profit organization is to create “profitable culinary social enterprise projects,” such as the food truck, and then give those profits back to local community charities and organizations, explained Sampath, who also lives in Richmond.

Once those projects are up and running, the non-profit will hire and train people who face barriers to employment and pay them a “better than living wage.” ElevATE is reaching out to various organizations to help coordinate this.

“It really was kind of a backyard conversation with a couple of friends, where we talked about the importance…of service to your community, and how we wanted to impress upon our family, our children, the idea that being of service to the community is the ultimate form of contribution,” he said.  

“So we wanted to model that behaviour by actually walking the walk.”

Sampath said the group had the idea to support charities through culinary enterprises as that was something they all have an interest in. Some members of ElevATE’s board also have backgrounds in the industry, making it a kind of “natural fit.”

While the idea for ElevATE came about prior to the pandemic, COVID-19 pushed Sampath to move ahead with the initiative.

“COVID was the thing that really motivated me because I thought, as much as it has impacts on everyone’s life and everyone’s family…what about the people who are kind of teetering on the brink at baseline?” Sampath said, noting the pandemic brought with it new barriers and challenges, job losses and concerns about access to health care.

“So that was the real inspiration to push it forward during COVID because there are a lot people who have it a lot worse than any of us (at ElevATE) did.”

There are also two other potential projects being discussed as part of ElevATE, including a food pod and an urban farming project, Sampath said.

He said the Cultivate food truck will also be heading to hospitals across the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health regions in addition to other locations such as parks, food truck festivals or breweries.

Eventually the goal is to also move into catering, and then those who book the truck will decide where profits should be donated.

When the truck goes to other hospitals, the profits will go to their hospital foundations as well as various projects such as VCH mental health initiatives and UBC brain health projects, according to Sampath.

A schedule of Cultivate food truck’s next locations will be posted in the coming weeks on its website, The menu is also available online.

People can also follow Cultivate food truck on Instagram or Facebook to find out where it will be next.