Meet Melanie Tran

melanie Tran

Farm to Early Care and Education Specialist|

"I grew up in my grandparents' Chinese restaurant surrounded by the sounds of a bustling dining room and busy kitchen. I'd often walk around and talk to customers as they ate their dinner. Ever since I have known the power food has to connect people," Melanie says.

The realization of food’s connection power stayed with Melanie, forming a deep interest in food and leading her to pursue an education in nutrition and a career as a dietitian. “I wanted kids to know that good, healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad,” she says.

At Groundwork, Melanie’s role as Farm to Early Care and Education Specialist definitely supports that mission. She spreads word of the benefits of serving locally grown foods and farm to school/ECE programming. She manages social media and communications for 10 Cents a Meal and also assists ECE and school communities with building capacity for farm to school/ECE work and participating in 10 Cents a Meal by connecting with a broad spectrum of partners and the public to help them understand the mission and importance of the program.

Looking ahead, Melanie is excited and optimistic that the local food economy will continue to expand, especially in early childhood education settings, where she has focused her career thus far. “I know how important early experiences with healthy foods are, as children form relationships with food,” she says.

For evidence that Melanie held on to the food lessons from her childhood, just look in her fridge. What’s always there? “Hot sauce, endless condiments, eggs, fruit, leafy green vegetables, home-brewed kombucha, and my sourdough starter—Herman,” she says.

Good to know


Education: Bachelor’s in Dietetics and minor in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from Michigan State University. Master of Arts in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Dietetics. Certifications: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

In her spare time ...

In her spare time ... Melanie likes to “cook, eat, and learn about food and everything related to it!,” she says. She also loves dancing, watching anime, and tending to her composting worms and garden.

Favorite spot in northern Michigan

Favorite spot in northern Michigan: Hard choice, the beauty of Northern Michigan is immense but I will say the beach at Leelanau State Park! I visited for a hiking event and it was amazing.

Why the prop?

Melanie loves reading through cookbooks, for her it’s less about the recipes and more about the stories that are shared by the authors. She picked the two books “Momofuku Milk Bar” and “Xi’an Famous Foods” because “I feel the authors were really able to express their lived experiences and share how their food embodies them.”