The Electrolux Food Foundation is a nonprofit organization that works with partners Worldchefs and AIESEC to inspire and educate others on sustainable cooking and eating. We sit down with Cosimo Scarano, who was recently appointed to head the Foundation, to talk about what’s on the horizon, how others can get involved, and why community is the key to activating change.
How did you begin your journey with the Electrolux Food Foundation?
While studying finance in Italy in 2013, I had the possibility to go to Recife, Brazil, with the world’s largest youth-led leadership organization, AIESEC, and volunteer to teach kids English. Since my thesis centered around the Brazilian economy, it was a great opportunity.
That trip changed my life. Everything clicked into place. Instead of working with investors or finance, I knew I wanted to spend my life investing in changing communities for the better. My purpose was finally clear, and every decision I’ve made since then comes back to this moment.
Two years later, I saw an opportunity to join the Electrolux Food Foundation. Once I joined, I knew I had joined a family, and together we’ve been building something really special.
I'm so excited to take on this new role to build on what we've started.
What is the Electrolux Food Foundation and how does it align with Electrolux Group’s strategy?
Many people think the Electrolux Food Foundation is this extra team out there somewhere talking about sustainable eating, but it’s more than that. We support the greater purpose to shape living for the better in the communities where we live and work. In many ways, we’re like the human connection side of Electrolux Group.
Feeding the planet’s growing population sustainably is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We have a two-fold objective. The first is to inspire sustainable cooking and eating habits among consumers and professionals. The second is to support people in need. We meet these objectives on three levels which include awareness and engagement activities, professional training and finally, support initiatives. We work with the unemployed, cancer survivors, emergency situations, recovering drug addicts, prisoners and others. We don’t just give back to communities — we inspire people with hope.
We partner with organizations, including Worldchefs, a global federation of national chef associations across the world, and AIESEC to provide educational tools. Examples include the Food Heroes toolkits and workshops, sustainable education for chefs, and culinary skills education for people in vulnerable communities through our Like a Chef program. When disasters strike, like the recent earthquake which has devasted Turkey and Syria, we partner together with the Red Cross to raise emergency relief funds.
Tell us more about a recent initiative that inspired you.
One of our latest Like a Chef initiatives partnered with Baheya Hospital, a renowned hospital in Egypt for the support, research and treatment of breast cancer to train, inspire and empower women in the community. They walked away with cooking skills, and a sense of community and pride. We also follow up with the people who take part in our programs. In March, we will showcase a graduate from our Like a Chef program in Poland, where we provided training to a group of refugees from Ukraine. We’ll share how the program has impacted her and given her opportunities for the future.
What’s next for the Electrolux Food Foundation?
We have a clear structure and measurable targets, which I believe is the key behind our growth and success. I’m also proud to say we’re on target to surpass our objective of educating 300,000 people across the world in sustainable cooking and eating. With our Food Heroes toolkits and workshops, we've already inspired 88,000+ kids in over 25 countries to think more sustainably about food. Our Like a Chef culinary education has given hope and workplace skills to over 1,000 people in need, while teaching them about sustainable eating and cooking. These are exciting achievements.
We’re also developing ways to spread our global awareness about some of the great things we’re doing. The key focus for us now and in the years to come is to engage people with a unified purpose, to inspire others to eat and cook more sustainably and to help people in need.
Six years ago, sustainable cooking felt like a niche segment. Today, more people are having conversations about how our food choices impact the planet. We can play an important part in these conversations about what sustainable cooking and eating really looks like and why it’s important.
How can people get involved?
It all comes back to building a community of people that share knowledge, gain insights and inspire others on sustainable eating. This is one of our highest priorities. We want all our colleagues at Electrolux Group to understand they can get involved. They don’t need to be a food scientist, a chef or even a teacher. We all have different talents, and the Electrolux Food Foundation offers several ways people can help. One way to start is by learning more about us. Take our food quiz at Replate.com to see if you’re smarter than a fifth grader.
What about you? What inspires you on this journey?
Working with new cultures and connecting with people who might have a different daily life than I have and all the challenges they face. This helps me constantly rethink my values on life and focus on what’s really important. Every city has people in need. And this work has taught me that we can reach them. We can adapt solutions and explore new ideas. There is always hope. If you don’t know where to begin, start with something as simple as an hour of your time.
More about Cosimo
Started at Electrolux Group: 2017
Comfort food: Pizza – the Italian kind
Favorite way to spend time: Walking with my dog and reading a good book.
One thing people might find surprising about me: I am a writer, with two romance novels written in Italian and Portuguese that have been published in four different countries.