we believe that every student
should have access to healthy food during the school day
Halton Food for Thought has been feeding Halton students for over two decades.
Our history isn’t uncommon; a grassroots group of people who identify a problem and come together to form a solution. In this case, one of the strongest groups you can have behind your cause: Parents.
These Parents noticed that not every child at school had food in their lunch box or that many kids had food that didn’t contain enough nutrients to fuel their minds and bodies for learning.
In 1997, the parents came together and formed an advisory committee to oversee the first 6 official Student Nutrition Programs in Halton. Fast forward to 2007, just ten years later, and HFFT became an incorporated, registered, charity with its own Board of Directors and 63 programs.
As of July 2018, HFFT has partner programs in 130 schools, providing more than 73,000 Halton students access to healthy food at school. We have over 2,100 volunteers (including 930 students) and dozens of community partners who all work together to feed students in their communities.
Our new Mission and Vision statements are the grounding force behind the work we do in the community and create momentum for the future.
In the spring of 2014, we set out to revive the agency. We wanted to realign ourselves with our cause and ensure all of our work was unified toward one goal.
Our Mission and Vision are the core of our values and fuel all of our work in the community.
No student goes hungry at school.
In partnership with the community, we feed students healthy food so they can achieve success.
Halton Food for Thought’s Core values not only demonstrate what we stand for as an organization, but also guide our work and impact in the community.
With our new Mission and Vision statements in place, we wanted to rebuild the values by which we would strive to reach our goals. The following values were chosen purposefully to represent our beliefs and actions as we work to see our vision become a reality.
We will use compassion, empathy and concern in our interactions at all levels and in our daily operations undertaking our Mission and Vision.
We affirm the dignity, the potential and the contributions of everyone involved in the agency both internally and externally.
We will not only pursue honorable initiatives, but we will conduct business in a way that is honest, transparent and ethical.
We believe in the value of learning for all students and strive to provide opportunities for students to achieve their academic best. We promote personal growth and learning among our board, staff and volunteers and know that the provision of knowledge will enhance our mission.
We value partnership and collaboration as a means of reaching our vision. We will enter into strong partnerships that will bring value to our mission and strengthen the community in which we serve.
Scott Currier, CPA, CA, is Chief Financial Officer at Forming Technologies Incorporated (FTI). Located in Burlington, FTI is a software company specializing in the simulation and feasibility analysis of metal forming for automotive, aerospace and consumer goods manufacturers. Scott’s professional career includes holding senior financial roles for both public and private companies, as well as CFO of GS1 Canada, a large not-for-profit organization. Scott joined the HFFT Board of Directors in June 2014 and has most recently served as Treasurer and Chair of the Audit Committee for HFFT. Scott, his wife Carolyn and their three boys live in Oakville.
Leigh-Ann Popek, Vice-Chair
Leigh-Ann Popek is a Public Affairs, Government Relations and Corporate Communications Consultant, helping high profile business executives, public officials and community leaders manage and promote their brand. Prior to starting her own business she held leadership roles in the private and political sectors. Leigh-Ann is from Hamilton and lives in Burlington with her family. Leigh-Ann joined the Board of Directors of Halton Food For Thought in April 2014.
Robert March is the Chief Financial Officer at Ippolito Group Inc. Ippolito is a full-serve produce company serving North America, growing, packing and shipping from the farm to the shelf under the Queen Victoria brand. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and St. Mary’s University, holding a Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration, in addition to being a CPA, CA in Canada and CPA (Illinois) in the United States. Robert and his wife, Laura, live in Burlington with their three children. Robert joined the Board of Directors of HFFT in September 2015.
Ryan Maraj is an accomplished leader with experience in commercial and operational disciplines. He has lead teams in various functions, including sales, marketing, supply chain, distribution, manufacturing and engineering. He is currently the Director of Sales Enablement and Training for Torstar and leads his own private consulting practice. He has a passion to help people succeed and believes that invaluable building blocks are acquired in the classroom; this passion led to his involvement with HFFT. Ryan is in his third term serving on the Board Directors with HFFT, and has experience leading national United Way fundraising programs and mental health awareness in the workplace initiatives.
Peter brings over 35 years of Banking and Human Resources expertise, developed over a rewarding career with TD Bank Financial Group where he held Vice President roles in many diverse Businesses including Corporate Human Resources, Business Banking & Insurance, Compliance & Regulatory Services and Commercial Banking. Peter is now an Executive Coach and Senior Consultant at Felix Global Corp. where he works closely with clients in large and medium sized corporations to develop and execute customized talent management solutions and engage in HR support assignments that include executive coaching, career transition and conflict resolution. A husband, father and proud resident of Oakville, Peter is an active supporter of local United Way campaigns, a past Board Member for United Way Oakville and is past Chair of the Oakville United Way Community Impact Cabinet.
Maria Thomas is a Vice Principal with the Halton Catholic District School. In her years as a teacher in Milton, Oakville, and Burlington, Maria has experienced the value the food from HFFT delivers and the direct impact HFFT programs provide to student success both socially and emotionally as well as academic achievement overall. Maria is a firm believer that every student deserves to learn on a full stomach and that no child should be concerned by hunger especially at school. Maria, her husband and her two daughters live in Burlington, around the corner from her childhood home.
Cassandra Loomans, Vice President of Sylvite oversees Sylvite Sales and Sylvite Industrial Chemicals with responsibility for strategic planning, customer service, administrative activities and key divisional accountabilities.Since joining Sylvite in 2007, Cassandra has held progressively senior roles, including Vice President of Sylvite Insurance Group, and Business Development Coordinator for Sylvite Financial Services. Early on, she gained valuable insight and experience as a customer service and sales representative, fertilizer and industrial management intern, and as a crop scout. Cassandra has also spent time at Marsh Canada Limited and Lloyds of London working on her insurance knowledge. Cassandra grew up in Burlington, her family business is in agriculture and they are passionate about feeding the world and the communities they operate in.
Rina DeGrazia is Vice President & Market Leader Branch Banking, TD Canada Trust. She leads the 90 Retail Bank Branches that comprise the Central Market in Greater Toronto Region. Rina joined TD through the Laurentian Bank acquisition in 2003. Over the years, Rina has spent time in various roles within Branch Banking, including Head Office functions. Prior to her current role, Rina spent 5 years in TD Waterhouse Private Client Group leading the National Sales team, overseeing the Risk and Reporting functions and most recently as Associate Vice President of Private Banking. Rina completed her undergraduate degree at University of Toronto and lives in Georgetown, Ontario with her husband and 2 children. Rina is passionate about supporting local communities and organizations. Rina also sits on the board for the Georgetown Hospital Foundation and ProAction Cops & Kids.
John has been actively involved in supporting students’ needs during his career. Through many years of coaching sports and working with student youth groups, he has directly observed the great contributions and success kids can achieve with the support of a nurturing environment that works to reduce the barriers which many will face during their lives. John has two daughters in post graduate university studies and shares time between Dundas and Milton with his partner Lesley. He has worked in the Halton District School Board for over a decade as an administrator and is currently the Principal of King’s Road Public School in Burlington. Previously John worked as an environmental chemist in the GTA prior to his transition to teaching.
Jennifer is the Nutrition and Marketing Manager at Aramark Canada. With a strong background in foods and nutrition, Jennifer has always had a passion for school health and making healthy food accessible for all. Growing up on a vineyard in the Niagara Region, Jennifer has a true appreciation for producing food and the hard work and dedication it takes to harvest a crop. Jennifer is now a resident of Burlington, where she lives with her husband, Brandon.
HFFT Role: Executive Director
HFFT team member since: Feb 2014
My HFFT History: I have a passion for helping kids learn and grow. Through my ten years at the YMCA I was able to help Burlington kids become healthy in spirit, mind and body. When the opportunity arose to work with more children all across Halton and ensure they were healthy, eating well and had every chance to be academically successful, I jumped in with both feet. Knowing we are feeding 25,000 kids every week makes all the hard work worthwhile every day.
Favourite HFFT Mascot and why: My favourite HFFT Mascot is Pierre Pear. I love a good pear crunch and pears appear on many lists of the world’s healthiest foods. They are full of important minerals, containing calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Vitamin C and copper are antioxidant nutrients, so eating pears is good for your immune system and may help prevent cancer.
HFFT Role: Burlington Community Development Manager
HFFT team member since: January 2018
My HFFT History: I have a passion for student health that has led me to dedicate many hours to promoting the importance of wellbeing as it relates to academic success. When I saw the opportunity to directly support student nutrition and help deliver healthy foods into our local schools, I jumped right in! I am committed to helping our volunteer coordinators and school administrators run programs smoothly and effectively to ensure no student goes hungry at school.
My favourite HFFT mascot and why: My favorite HFFT mascot is Brock Broccoli because you can prepare and eat broccoli many ways – baked, raw, sautéed or in soup just to name a few. Broccoli can help fight against cancer, improve your bone density and digestion plus help protect you from chronic disease. On top of all those amazing things, it’s great for your skin and helps keep you looking young!
HFFT Role: Oakville Community Development Manager
HFFT team member since: Feb 2012
MY HFFT History: I have always been interested in nutrition and eating healthy so when I heard about all the great things Halton Food For Thought was doing I knew I had to be part of the team! I love being in the programs every week and seeing the difference it makes having food available to all students. There are so many reasons kids are not eating enough healthy food and I am fortunate to be able to help ensure “no student goes hungry at school” as part of my job every day.
Favourite HFFT Mascot and why: My favourite HFFT Mascot is Abi Apple because apples are one of my favourite snacks. I also see apples as the most diverse food item used in all three of our programs. They are served at breakfast programs, used in classroom bins and served on snack trays. Apples are very good for you and include a great source of soluble fibre along with vitamin A and C. Finally who can resist the name Abi Apple chosen by Oakwood School!
Name: Maureen McLaughlin
HFFT Role: Halton Hills & Milton Community Development Manager
HFFT team member since: May 2009
HFFT Role: Director of Communications and Development
HFFT team member since: Jan 2016
My HFFT History: I have always been involved in health and wellness both personally and professionally in one way shape or form. I am also passionate about education and empowerment. When the opportunity came about to combine these loves with enhancing the lives of children and youth within our community – there was no question, I knew where I needed to be! The more I learn about Halton Food for Thought’s partnerships within the community and local schools, the more passionate I become about ensuring “no student goes hungry at school”!
Favourite HFFT Mascot and why: My favourite HFFT Mascot is Ollie Orange because when I was a child my family owned a rabbit we named Ollie. You can imagine my surprise when our rabbit became momma to baby rabbits! We quickly changed momma’s “official name” to Olivia, though she will always be Ollie to me! And… who can resist a name like Ollie – it’s just fun to say! Try saying Ollie Orange 5 times quickly?!?