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The Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council

Recognizing that greater collaboration is essential to make meaningful progress on complex and systemic food issues, the Government of Canada created the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council as a central piece of the Food Policy for Canada.

This multi-disciplinary group has the expertise and lived experience to bring diverse social, environmental, health and economic perspectives to the table to help address food system challenges and opportunities of today and into the future.

Role of the Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council

The Advisory Council will:

  • report to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • advise on current and emerging issues
  • enable ongoing dialogue on food-related challenges and opportunities
  • share information and best practices
  • assess gaps in policies and data
  • advise on implementation of the Food Policy's four priority action areas to advance progress towards the six priority outcomes

Priorities of the Food Policy for Canada

Four near-term action areas

  1. Help Canadian communities access healthy food
  2. Make Canadian food the top choice at home and abroad
  3. Support food security in Northern and Indigenous communities
  4. Reduce food waste

Six long-term outcomes

  1. Vibrant communities
  2. Increased connections within food systems
  3. Improved food-related health outcomes
  4. Strong Indigenous food systems
  5. Sustainable food practices
  6. Inclusive economic growth

Canadian Food Policy Advisory Council Members

Jean-François Archambault

Quebec

Jean-François Archambault

After studying hotel management at the ITHQ, Jean-François Archambault quickly became a manager in the hotel sector. In 2002, he went in front of leaders in the culinary, food and hotel industry to present the daring idea of recovering surplus food from hotels and caterers in order to feed people in need. This was the birth of La Tablée des Chefs.

Through the organization’s activities and programs, Jean-François socially mobilizes chefs and cooks. He believes in their incredible ability to address the issue of hunger by sharing, among other things, their valuable culinary knowledge. Each year, La Tablée des Chefs feeds more than 1 million people through its food recovery program, in addition to working with more than 4,000 young people with its various culinary training courses. In spring 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing food insecurity that resulted from it, he quickly orchestrated the Solidarity Kitchens initiative, which involved many partners from the food and culinary industry, as well as support from the private sector and governments. In 2020 alone, this initiative will produce more than 2 million meals for donation to the Food Banks of Quebec network.

In 2015, Jean-François received the Meritorious Service Cross from the Governor General of Canada, and in 2018 he received the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec’s Medal for Exceptional Merit and the Hommage Chapeau restaurateurs award from the Association Restauration Québec (ARQ). With his commitment to causes close to his heart, he participated in the development of the Government of Quebec’s 2018–2023 Bio-Food Policy. In 2020, he received the Prix de l’impact social, awarded by the magazine L’Actualité, for the Solidarity Kitchens initiative.

Sylvie Cloutier

Quebec

Sylvie Cloutier

Sylvie Cloutier is a key player in Quebec’s bio-food sector. She has worked in strategic positions in this sector for nearly 20 years and has developed expertise in fields including issues management, negotiations, stakeholder relations and public affairs. She has worked for the Quebec Food Processing Council (CTAQ) since 2003, first as Vice-President, Communications and Public Affairs, and then as President and CEO since 2010. Between 1999 and 2003, Sylvie held the positions of Vice-President, Communications, and Executive Director of the Canadian Grand Prix New Product Awards from the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors.

Over the years, Sylvie has earned the utmost respect from stakeholders in the Canadian agri-food sector who recognize her dynamism, integrity and ability to rally people around common goals. Sylvie has served on several important boards of directors in the food sector, including those of Aliments du Québec, Éco Entreprises Québec and the Conseil des initiatives pour le progress en alimentation. She sits on the boards of directors of Farm Credit Canada and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. She also is an executive on the Food Processing Industry Roundtable and a founding member of Food & Beverage Canada. Moreover, she is involved with the funding committee for Tablée des chefs, which is dedicated to helping people in need and developing culinary education among young people.

Prior to her involvement in the food sector, Sylvie worked for the Canadian Space Agency as Acting Director of Communications, for the global public relations company Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada as a strategic advisor, and for the federal government as press officer. Sylvie holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Ottawa.

Heather Deck

Saskatchewan

Heather Deck

Heather is a Registered Dietitian based in rural Saskatchewan and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Health Studies with a focus on public health and health policy. Her professional interests focus on the relationship between food security and health status and how these variables are impacted through the development of food and health policies. Having previously worked in the food industry to developed value added snack foods from locally sourced pulse commodities, Heather has gained experience in applying a food system approach to addressing food-related opportunities and challenges.

Heather has experience developing food safety policies and procedures for low-risk commodities in accordance with the Safe Food for Canadians Act, the US Food and Drug Act and many other North American third-party certification bodies. She also enjoys working with individuals and the public to improve their food and nutrition literacy skills and to increase their knowledge on the benefits of supporting local food systems.

Julie Dickson Olmstead

British Columbia

Julie Dickson Olmstead

As the Managing Director of Public Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility for Save-On-Foods LP, a division of the Jim Pattison Group headquartered in Langley BC, Julie is a 30-year food industry veteran who holds responsibility for public affairs, corporate responsibility and strategic planning for sustainability, zero waste and environmental leadership projects at Canada's largest privately-held Western-based retail grocery chain.

In addition to her past work in the agency, not-for-profit and public sectors, Julie currently participates in a wide range of strategic food industry initiatives and cross-sectoral projects, including Retail Council of Canada’s Grocery and Pharmacy COVID-19 Response Table and the Canadian Grocer and Manufacturers Collaborative.

Julie is a member of the board of directors of BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation; Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba; Food Banks BC; Encorp Pacific (Return-It) and Canada’s National Zero Waste Council.

An accomplished presenter and accredited adult educator, Julie has a passion for life-long learning, systems-thinking and challenging the status quo. She has a houseful of animals and loves adventure and the outdoors: whether she’s out on the ocean, hiking local trails, or cheering her daughter on at a horse show, she’s grateful for the opportunities her West-Coast lifestyle brings to her family.

Evan Fraser

Ontario

Evan Fraser

Evan is the director of Arrell Food Institute and a professor of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the University of Guelph. As a researcher, Evan is a co-author on over 100 academic papers and book chapters about food systems, climate change and food security and has mentored close to 50 graduate students.

A passionate communicator, Evan has written about food systems and food policy for the Globe and Mail, the Guardian.com, CNN.com, ForeignAffairs.com, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen. He has also co-authored three books about food and food security, and regularly works to support policy makers in Canada and internationally.

He has helped lead radio documentaries for CBC’s Ideas on the future of food and his web video series on “feeding nine billion” has been watched over 500,000 times.

He has self-published a graphic novel called #FoodCrisis and created a card game about global food security that won a gold medal at the International “Serious Play” conference. Today, the videos, the graphic novel and the card game are used in classrooms around the world.

Sonny Gray

Yukon

Sonny Gray

Industry Leader, Agriculture Developer, & Entrepreneur; Sonny has a keen eye for identifying overlooked opportunities that exist in the North, and turning them into successful business ventures.

Sonny Gray, 40 years old, originally from Eastern Townships, Quebec, where he grew up working Beef, Dairy and Sheep Farms. He has resided in the Yukon for over 17 years now. Owner/Founder of several successful service-related businesses, five years ago Sonny returned to his roots, and with his background in business began farming with territorial food security in mind. Married, with a large family of five growing boys, food and access to healthy locally grown food is near and dear to Sonny’s heart.

Currently the CEO of North Star Agriculture Inc. Sonny and his team are leading the charge introducing and developing various innovative solutions to Northern farming barriers. Also serving as the CEO of Flat Creek Farms, Sonny helps supply Yukon Born & Raised Corp. (YBAR Meats) with fresh pork that services the territory. Co-owner of YBAR Meats Sonny and his team own and operate the Yukon’s territorially inspected, red meat abattoir, supplying the Yukon’s restaurants and grocery stores with local meat. Most recently Sonny and NorthStar Agriculture have been retained by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun to help develop and manage their 320 acre farm in order to achieve self sustainability and true food sovereignty.

  • Seventeen years of entrepreneurial business experience, and eleven years of volunteer board experience
  • Serving second term as President of the Yukon Agriculture Association
  • Past representative on the Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee
  • Serving as a Director representing Food & Beverage on the Tourism Industry Association Yukon

Marcel Groleau

Quebec

Marcel Groleau

Marcel Groleau, a Dairy producer in Thetford Mines, in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, has been President of the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) since December 2011.

He co-owns La Ferme D.M. Groleau along with his brother Denis. This family farm has a herd with 350 head of Holstein, 200 of which are lactating, and produces a significant portion of the herd’s food on its land. Denis’ son Charles will be the third generation on the farm, which was founded in 1946. In 2000, the Groleau brothers received the Cérès award for excellence at the Salon de l’Agriculture for their great management qualities.

Marcel Groleau’s involvement in the agricultural sector goes far beyond the scope of the UPA presidency. He is also President of UPA Développement international and Vice-President of AgriCord, a group of 13 agri-agencies working on all continents. In addition, he is Co-Chair of the Coalition pour l’exception agricole et alimentaire, a member of the board of directors of the Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec and a member of the executive committee of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. Marcel was a member of the North American Free Trade Agreement Council, a committee tasked with advising the Canadian government during renegotiations of the Agreement. Finally, he has taken part in numerous missions abroad to follow up on negotiations of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements or within the framework of international meetings of agricultural organizations, in addition to sitting on the audit committee of the World Farmers’ Organization.

Christopher (Chris) Hatch

Ontario

Christopher (Chris) Hatch

Christopher (Chris) Hatch is Chief Executive Officer of Food Banks Canada. He leads a staff team dedicated to deepening collaboration across a national network of food bank organizations and maximizing their collective impact to assist the more than 800,000 people who turn to food banks every month.

Prior to joining Food Banks Canada in January 2018, Chris was Executive Director of the Mississauga Food Bank for nine years. During his tenure he was instrumental in delivering a number of transformational and innovative projects including: moving into a new and expanded warehouse, implementing a sophisticated inventory management system, and launching the first aquaponics farm at a Canadian food bank to ensure fresh produce and fish could be shared with food bank recipients across the city. He serves on the Mayor of Mississauga’s Poverty and Homelessness Advisory Board.

Before joining The Mississauga Food Bank, Chris had a distinguished career as a human resource management consultant. As a Principal at Mercer and Towers Perrin, he consulted with a wide array of non-profit and multinational organizations headquartered throughout North America and Europe. He was also a notable speaker and author on human resource issues and was widely quoted by major business publications.

Chris is a graduate of Southern Illinois University and Trinity College-Hartford, Connecticut. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012 for dedicated service to the community and volunteers with Habitat for Humanity where he was involved in the building of two new homes in Southern Ontario.

Lynda Kuhn

Ontario

Lynda Kuhn

Lynda Kuhn is a Senior Vice President, Maple Leaf Foods & Chair, Maple Leaf Centre for Action on Food Security (“the Centre”). She joined Maple Leaf in 2002 and has led communications, public affairs and the implementation of a comprehensive sustainability framework that advances the company’s vision to be the most sustainable protein company on earth.

As Chair of the Centre, Lynda works with the staff and board to realize the Centre’s goal to reduce food insecurity in Canada by 50% by 2030. The Centre focuses its work on advocacy, capacity building, and supporting initiatives that reduce food insecurity and increase reliable access to nourishing, culturally appropriate foods.

Lynda spent her early career supporting the formation and execution of development strategies at the regional and community level, including eight years working with First Nations Mi’kmaq communities in Atlantic Canada to advance bilingual bicultural education, housing, health, and economic development. She also co-founded the Wezesha Education Foundation in Kenya, which enables impoverished young people to become leaders through education.

Lynda lives on an organic farm near Guelph, Ontario with her husband Doug.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Dalhousie University, Halifax and a Master of Arts in Applied Anthropology from McGill University, Montreal. She is a member of the Advisory Board, Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson University.

Elizabeth Kwan

Ontario

Elizabeth Kwan

Elizabeth Kwan is a Senior Researcher at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The CLC is the national voice of the labour movement in Canada, representing 3.3 million workers.

Elizabeth will have direct access to the unions affiliated with the CLC representing workers in health care services, the agri-food sector, food processing, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, retailers, food-provision services, as well as the waste disposal and recycling industry.

Elizabeth brings deep knowledge and experience working with equity, marginalized and vulnerable groups—all of whom are highly susceptible to food insecurity. Her social, labour and health policy successes include research on Islamophobia and Indigenous issues, on-going work on precarious and “gig” employment, and universal public pharmacare.

Over the years, Elizabeth has focussed on migrant workers’ rights under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Recent work includes addressing COVID-19 challenges, the 3-year Agri-food pilot, the Migrant Worker Support Network, and improvements to worker accommodations.

Elizabeth currently serves as an Executive Committee member and a Gender Champion for the SSHRC research project Policy and Practice in Return to Work after Work Injury: Challenging Circumstances and Innovative Solutions; and Co-Chair of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Labour Domestic Advisory Group.

Joseph LeBlanc

Ontario

Joseph LeBlanc

Dr. Joseph LeBlanc is a life-long Northern Ontarian and member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. Passionate about community health and wellbeing, he has extensive experience in asset-based community development and food system change throughout the region.

Dr. Joseph LeBlanc was appointed the inaugural Associate Dean, Equity and Inclusion, of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), which began July 1, 2020 for a five-year term. Dr. LeBlanc has been NOSM’s Director, Indigenous Affairs since October 15, 2018.

Before joining NOSM, he worked for a diverse range of organizations, including academic institutions, charities, non-profits, and Indigenous organizations. He holds an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Forest Conservation, an Environmental Management Certificate, and a PhD in Forest Sciences from Lakehead University. Dr. LeBlanc is recognized as a leading expert in Indigenous food systems and community development in Canada. He has also received several awards including a Top 20 under 40 Northwestern Ontario Visionary Award and a Forty under 40 Northern Ontario Business Award.

Catherine L. Mah

Nova Scotia

Catherine Mah

Catherine L. Mah MD FRCPC PhD is Canada Research Chair in Promoting Healthy Populations and Associate Professor in the School of Health Administration at Dalhousie University.

Dr. Mah directs the Food Policy Lab, a multidisciplinary program of research on the environmental and policy determinants of diet and consumption. Her research is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

She also holds appointments at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and Saint Mary’s University.

Among her networks of scientific collaborations, she is Chief Investigator for the NHMRC Healthy Stores 2020 trial at Monash University; Associate Investigator in the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Food Retail Environments for Health, Deakin University; Atlantic co-lead for FLEdGE, a SSHRC global partnership on sustainable food systems at Wilfrid Laurier University; and founding investigator of the CIHR PROOF food insecurity team at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Mah resides in Atlantic Canada. She is a former member of the Toronto Food Policy Council and founding member of the St. John’s Food Policy Council.

Larry McIntosh

Manitoba

Larry McIntosh

Larry McIntosh has been the President and CEO of Peak of the Market for the last 27 years. Located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Peak sells Canadian vegetables for farms in Manitoba and across Canada. Larry has 35+ years of experience with the fresh produce supply chain, as well as senior leadership roles in grower and retail organizations. He has extensive experience in volunteer leadership as Chair of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA), Food and Beverage Manitoba (formerly Manitoba Food Processors) and the Winnipeg and Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. In addition, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Winnipeg Harvest Food Bank, Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Produce Marketing Association, Food Beverage Canada, Prairie Improvement Network and the Agri-Food Network of Manitoba.

Larry has been honoured to receive several awards including Golden Carrot Award for Community Food Champion, Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community, Agri-Marketer of the Year Award, Top 25 Most Influential People in Produce, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals and the Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year Award. Larry is passionate about ending hunger, promoting good health and reducing food waste.

Rosie Mensah

Ontario

Rosie Mensah

Rosie Mensah is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian who advocates for food justice and health equity. Growing up in a predominantly low-income neighbourhood, Rosie experienced food insecurity first-hand. Early on, Rosie became aware of the link between poverty and food insecurity, and the destructive effects it was having on her and other members of her community. These experiences motivated Rosie to work towards addressing the root causes of food insecurity in her community, which developed her interest in food justice.

Rosie is a member of the FoodShare Board of Directors, and many other food justice groups across Toronto. In 2020, Rosie developed an anti-oppression course for dietitians, and has plans to develop other social justice focused learning experiences for health professionals. Additionally, Rosie is the voice behind the brand "The Rosie Nutritionist", which explores food, bodies, and health through an intersectional lens.

Rosie holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Toronto, and is a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario.

Rosie aims to empower people to enjoy good food and the diverse cultures across Canada, while nourishing themselves and their communities.

Lori Nikkel

Ontario

Lori Nikkel

Lori Nikkel is a visionary leader; a champion of social and environmental justice issues related to food.

As CEO of Second Harvest Lori saw an opportunity to pivot a local food charity that distributed fresh healthy food, into a national food support network, and international thought leader on Perishable Food Recovery. She strategically focused on highlighting the negative impacts food loss has on climate to increase participation and awareness.

Under Lori's leadership in 2020 Second Harvest rescued a record-breaking $64.35 million worth of food, feeding 1.3 million, and diverting 75 million pounds of GHG from the environment. The organization expanded nationally and now supports 4,336 agency programs in 13 provinces and territories.

Her guidance has changed the way Canada manages food loss and waste, authoring The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste, a world first evidence-based research project identifying; where, why, and how much food is lost and wasted across the supply chain.

A favoured media contributor and food rescue expert, Lori is sought after by organizations for her commentary and recommendations. In 2020, Lori addressed the FAO North America, speaking on Second Harvest's work, and was also globally recognized by the United Nations as Canada's Food Hero.

Denise Philippe

British Columbia

Denise Philippe

Denise Philippe is a Senior Policy Advisor with Metro Vancouver and the National Zero Waste Council (NZWC). NZWC is an initiative of Metro Vancouver that works collaboratively with business, government and community to prevent waste in the design, production and use of goods. The Council works Canada-wide, with a BC-based Secretariat. Food loss and waste (FLW) prevention/reduction is one of the Council’s core areas of work - Denise has been the portfolio lead since 2012. She was instrumental in developing the Council’s A Food Loss and Waste Strategy for Canada. She has been the liaison for the Council’s cross-sector Food Working Group, helping deliver projects ranging from a fiscal incentive campaign to knowledge sharing on best before date labelling. She has led collaborative research projects, including the recent Less Food Loss and Waste, Less Packaging Waste.

Denise is a certified professional planner, with a M.Ed. in environmental education. Her background experience ranges from social justice to environmental stewardship - her skill set spans facilitation, engagement, and policy development.

She has worked on issues related to Canada’s food system – sustainable land use through to waste prevention – while at the NZWC, through Metro Vancouver’s sustainable region initiative, and as a planner working on urban food systems.

Denise loves to be outdoors, exploring landscapes with her son.

Melana Roberts

Ontario

Melana Roberts

Melana Roberts is a federal and municipal food policy strategist and food justice advocate based in Toronto. Committed to building a more equitable food system, Melana brings an anti-racist, intersectional approach to her work and focuses on community driven solutions that democratize food systems governance, prioritizes access and equity, and drives inclusive economic development. Currently undertaking the creation of North America’s first municipal Black Food Sovereignty Plan at the City of Toronto, she brings experience in local procurement, student nutrition, urban agriculture and emergency food planning. Melana has worked collaboratively with diverse food actors, volunteering on Boards, Councils, and in international fora. Recently elected as Canada's United Nations Civil Society Delegate for the CPD53, she provided expert advice on global emergency food responses during COVID-19. She has been a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council, former Chair of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council, and serves as Chair of Food Secure Canada. Melana is a founding member of the Black Food Sovereignty Alliance, has participated on the Farmers For Climate Solutions' Task Force, and sits on the Leaders Table of the national Food Communities Network – Canada’s first municipal food network. Passionate about building resilient regional food economies, she’s a Director at Carrot Cache, a philanthropic foundation supporting food systems in Ontario, and has acted as a Grants Advisor to the Ivey Foundation. In 2020, Melana became an Action Canada Fellow, leading policy research to advance sustainability, equity and diversity in Canada's agricultural workforce, and was named a CBC Next 10 Leader, shaping the future of food in Canada.

Mary Robinson

Prince Edward Island

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson is a managing partner of a 6th generation family farm operation, Eric C. Robinson Inc. and its sister company Island Lime and serves on the boards of associated companies PEI Agromart and Mid-Isle Farms. She holds a degree in economics and business and has worked in Canada and in Scotland in all facets of the potato industry (agronomy, food processing, and production).

Outside of running operations for Island Lime and supporting the various facets of the business, Mary plays an active role in industry politics. She joined the PEI Federation of Agriculture board in 2008 and led the Federation as President from 2015 to 2017. After serving on the Canadian Ag HR Council board for seven years, Mary became CAHRC's first female chair in 2017. Mary joined the World Farmers'; Organization's Board of Directors in 2020, and currently serves as the President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

Mary has extensive experience in executive and governance roles. Mary was selected by two Ministers of Agriculture and AgriFood Canada to serve on AAFC’s National Program Advisory Council (2015-2017) and the External Expert Panel of the Business Risk Management Program Review (2017) as well as by Federal Minister of Environment to serve on the Sustainable Development Advisory Committee.

Brenda Schoepp

British Columbia

Brenda Schoepp

Brenda Schoepp brings a global perspective on food system leadership and has visited a wide variety of farms and food processing floors around the world. She has a deep appreciation of the importance of visionary food policy and collaborative community led outcomes. In her decades of farming, Brenda developed regenerative practises and served in leadership roles provincially and nationally in agriculture and agri-food, research and animal health.

She was awarded the Nuffield Scholarship in 2012, investigating mentorship programs for women and girls in global agriculture.

In 2019 she earned her Master of Arts in Global Leadership from Royal Roads University, researching Global Food Leadership and completed her FAO courses on Food Security and Rural Community Development.

She is the recipient of honors in leadership, diversity and communication. An awarded author, active advocate for equality and acceptance and an inspiring speaker she fosters her global reach by mentoring young entrepreneurs in agriculture and food, business and education.

Based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, she embraces her humanitarian work locally and internationally with persons who do not have reliable access to resources and food. Brenda enjoys children and youth and nurturing a diverse stakeholder dialogue in food leadership at all levels.

Wendy Smith

Ontario

Wendy Smith

Wendy Smith is a 5th generation settler from Stoney Creek, Ontario. She has spent the last 28 years working in institutional nutrition services in healthcare for St. Joseph’s Health System where her current position is Contract Specialist for their Group Purchasing Organization in the MEALsource Program. MEALsource facilitates contracts for food for 33 healthcare nutrition service operations in Ontario, as well as the Ontario Student Nutrition Program.

For the past decade, Wendy has been involved in several funded initiatives to improve outcomes for the food system in Ontario and for the people it serves. Most recently, she has served as an advisor for the McConnell Family Foundation’s Nourish program, a movement towards a healthier, more sustainable future for people and planet in healthcare across Canada. Wendy believes that building bridges across the supply chain is the key to removing barriers to accessing high quality, nutritious food for the people served in an institutional setting.

She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Windsor and holds a Professional Logistician designation.

Avni Soma

Alberta

Avni Soma

Ms. Avni Soma is a scientist, small business owner and community leader from Canmore, Alberta, with a background in healthcare and over 12 years’ experience in the food industry.

Committed to affecting change in local food systems, Avni launched and ran a successful organic, fair trade tea company (2006-2013), before she co-initiated and developed Farm Box (2010-2016) – a social business that has since merged with The Organic Box. Both teams were initial market leaders in the food box delivery model in Alberta. She also helped start Alpine Edible Schoolyards, a not-for-profit enterprise that combines urban farming and educational school gardens. Currently, Avni sits on the Board of the Bow Valley Food Alliance and is involved in creation of a monthly, subsidized box program to address food insecurity issues in the Bow Valley.

A passionate cross-country skier, Avni spends her time on the trails envisioning ways to improve local food systems. She is committed to inspiring meaningful change in her community, and will always bring some Alberta carrots to the table.

Avni holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Master of Science in Physiology from the University of Calgary. She is fluent in English, French and Gujarati.

Connor Williamson

British Columbia

Connor Williamson

Connor is a farmer, food system researcher, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. As a fifth-generation farmer, Connor was born into a passion for agriculture and later, a drive to understand and provide solutions to Canada’s food system. Connor has researched topics that range from food security in transnational settings, to how supply management can promote localized food systems.

Currently, Connor is a contributing researcher to the SSRHC funded project, 'Four Stories about Food Sovereignty: Transnational crises and local action'. The project seeks to create an enduring community-engaged research network of grassroots food producers, researchers and local producer organizations from four continents. The four settings range from South Africa, Indigenous Colombia and Canada, and refugee camps in Jordan. The overall question of this work is: How are communities to feed themselves? This question has led Connor to focus his research on the LGBTQ+ community, and how this underrepresented population operates in agriculture, what are the barriers they experience, and opportunities for growth.

A budding area of research for Connor is the cannabis industry in Canada. Connor’s interest in this field began when the crop was first legalized and later classified as a farm-use on agricultural land reserve land in BC. Connor now examines how communities respond to this crop’s introduction into their jurisdiction, how agricultural organizations navigate the recent legalization, and what role cannabis could play for a farm's business diversification.

Connor hopes to bring his passion for a range of topics to this council and to act as an ally and voice to marginalized communities across Canada.

Gisèle Yasmeen

British Columbia / Quebec

Gisèle Yasmeen

Gisèle Yasmeen divides her time between Vancouver and Montréal, has 20 years of leadership experience in knowledge organizations having served as a not-for-profit and federal government executive including Vice-President of Research and Partnerships at the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Gisèle brings a deep food systems lens to her work and started working on urban food distribution in both Asia and Canada in the early 1990s. She has published widely including two books, several scholarly articles and provides media commentary in both English and French. She is Executive Director of Food Secure Canada as well senior fellow at the University of British Columbia and an affiliate of McGill’s Institute for Global Food Security.

Gisèle has a PhD from the University of British Columbia, an MA from McGill and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Ottawa.

Gisèle has also advised numerous organizations including the National Research Council, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems. She is currently a member of the scientific committee of CityFood project at New York University and has also served on five boards of directors of not-for-profit organizations.

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