When Elijah Amoo Addo witnessed a mentally challenged man collecting leftover food from street vendors to feed others, he knew his life was about to change, Stacey Knott speaks to the inspired chef.
Elijah Amoo Addo used to dream of curing ills. As a child he wanted to be a doctor, but at the age of 14, life took a dramatic turn. His parents died and he needed to get a job to take care of his younger sisters.
Family support in Ghana was lacking so he moved to Nigeria to live with an aunt. He went to school in the day and then worked until 11pm, and all weekend as a cleaner at a restaurant.
One fateful day he made a humiliating mistake which ended up changing his life.
He accidentally threw out a chef’s sauce, the chef went “ballistic,” a terrible experience Elijah says.
“I broke down and started crying. I was crying and in the whole restaurant customers were hearing me.
“As I was crying I just busted out and shouted back at the chef ‘do you think if my parents were to be alive I would even be working here at this age?’ When I made that statement the chef also started crying with me,” Elijah recalls with a laugh.
The chef’s life story was similar to his own, and a long friendship was born with that chef helping and training Elijah to become a chef.
“I started researching and learning about it, I earned the reputation in the restaurant as a doctor in the kitchen.”
It’s ten years since he was screamed at by that chef and during that decade his passion for the cheffing profession has grown. Elijah loves to feed people and has done so in some of Ghana’s top restaurants. But, he soon found feeding those who were able to afford his carefully prepared food wasn’t enough, and a chance encounter with a mentally challenged man further changed his life.
Elijah met the man when on his way to work at a restaurant. The man was collecting leftovers from food vendors which he would then distribute to other mentally challenged people on the streets.
Elijah started thinking about the amount of food wasted in the country. He had seen it a lot through his cheffing career.
As someone who had also once struggled to eat, he felt inspired to redistribute the excess food he was seeing.
He started approaching companies for donations and over the past year has been feeding those in need through his not-for-profit Food for All Ghana, which seeks to create sustainable means of nutrition for the vulnerable in society.
He has a three prong approach to halting food waste and ensuring everyone gets to eat. There’s the free breakfasts and soup kitchens which make use of donated foods, a farming programme designed to help the vulnerable help themselves through sustainable crop and livestock farming, and thirdly, a forum for stakeholders within the food industry to combat supply inefficiencies within the food supply chain.
Pulse.com.gh went along to one of Food for All Ghana’s Share Your Breakfast events at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, where oats, biscuits and milk were served to severely disabled children in the children’s wards, aside from bringing the food, Elijah and his volunteers personally help feed the children.
With the supplies it has sourced, Food for All Ghana is able to feed three different wards, with patients clearly enjoying their meals.
Elijah is happy to see the patients enjoy the food which he says many of us easily take for granted.
“What pains me is the fact it’s not everyday they get this food,” he says.
The idea for the event, which began last year and happens every weekend around Ghana, is to go to institutions and communities in Greater Accra, the Central Region, Volta Region and parts of the Eastern Region to cook a nutritious breakfast for those in need.
With a team of six and a base of 120 volunteers to call on, Elijah is working to make change in his corner of the world.
“We believe it is a responsibility….a shared social responsibility in the sense that these people are part of our society, you can’t take them out of society. They are part of society. What we should consider is money might be for individuals but resources that we have in our society is for everyone.”
This should especially be true for food “the sustainer of life” he says.
“We shouldn't be wasting food when there are people who really need it and that is the concept for Food for All Ghana.”
Like when he talks about food, helping the vulnerable makes Elijah beam.
He believes it brings hope to those who are receiving it.
“I see it as doing what Jesus came and did because there is food sitting down somewhere, the fact [is] people are not buying the food it is going to waste.
“[It is] just a gesture of going to pick that food to [give to] somebody else, that connection alone solves somebody’s problem. I feel inspired by that. Sometimes you go to some of these places and you are touched by the response these people give.”