Vanessa Ling Yu is the founding Executive Director of caterToronto, a Toronto neighbourhoods-based catering network with the mission to cultivate better social and economic outcomes by connecting people and food in ways that are diverse, dignified, and delicious for all!
Her knowledge and experience of working with communities includes participatory action research, health promotion, economic development, and food sector sustainability.
She has a long-standing commitment to pursuing critical food justice with specific focus on developing inclusive local food economies and community health that prioritizes racialized women and newcomers.
Vanessa’s interest and investment into this work stem from evolving yet enduring encounters that she has personally experienced, and bares witness, to when it comes to cultural, social, economic, and political barriers at various levels; across generations and boundaries.
She has served on various local and global boards, advisories, and committees to represent constituents at neighbourhood and country levels, including as a representative of Canada in curriculum design for International Health Promotion and Public Health Education. Vanessa’s current voluntary roles are as Director at Black Creek Community Farm and Asian Community AIDS Services, additionally as an Advisor for FoodShare Toronto’s working groups for food justice and social enterprise.
Vanessa’s quirky tidbit of the moment is taking care of her health by embracing non-food related hobbies. So far, kayaking, crafting, hiking, rock-climbing, and square breathing are going swimmingly!
Jess Walker (she/her), Manager of Operations
Jess Walker is a long-time food industry vet, who started her career in a mall food court in Kjipuktuk (Halifax, NS). While pursuing an education in Social Anthropology and Radio Broadcasting, she always kept a foot in the food industry. After working as a chase producer at CBC in 2012-13, Jess and a colleague launched a 40-episode podcast series called Foodstuffs, a podcast about food and culture, that opened her up to the range of work being done in Tkaronto (Toronto, ON), deepening her understanding of the food supply chain and greater food system in Canada and beyond. In the years since shelving the podcast, Jess took these learnings into her work in casual fine dining, asking questions about the origins of ingredients and the labour that goes into agriculture, food production and winemaking in the 21st century. Jess joined caterToronto as the Manager of Operations in 2021.
In the years since, Jess has continued to grow and better understand the needs of the food industry, caterToronto participants and members and the city as a whole. Jess remains steadfast in her belief that food is the best means by which to bring the world’s biggest challenges into sharp focus, because we all need to eat.
Jenny Vasquez (she/they), Kitchens Network Coordinator
Jenny (she/they) is a proudly queer, mixed Guatemalan-Chinese, first generation settler living in Tkaronto. They have a background in teaching, social work, and experience in various administrative roles in the arts, event, non-profit sector, and more recently the food industry. Jenny embarked on their own culinary journey with Mamey Tamales, a successful tamales pop-up shop that delighted tastebuds across Toronto and Hamilton for 3.5 years. Through Mamey, Jenny met caterToronto when she was invited to contribute to their #DiaDeLosMuertos Care Packages. It was a serendipitous partnership that was perfectly aligned with Jenny's passion for culture and community. Jenny is excited to be working with the caterToronto team as their new Kitchens Network Coordinator, reviving this vital program aimed at facilitating members' access to commercial kitchen space while also providing crucial business support, including education and programming.