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 almost 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 June 2016, HFFT has programs in 110 schools across Halton and feeds more than 25,000 students a week. We have over 2,000 volunteers (including 800 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 that they can achieve academic 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.
Melissa Adams, Board Chair
Melissa Adams has been Crown Counsel with the Crown Law Office – Criminal of the Ministry of the Attorney General since 2003. In that time, she has prosecuted criminal cases throughout Ontario, served as an advisory Crown to specialized police units, is regularly engaged in police education, argues criminal appeals at the Ontario Court of Appeal, and has appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada. Melissa and her husband and daughter live in Burlington. Melissa joined the Board of Directors of HFFT in April 2014.
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.
Scott Currier, Treasurer
Scott Currier, CPA, CA, is Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President Operations at GS1 Canada. GS1 Canada is a member of GS1, the world’s leading supply chain standards organization. As a neutral, not-for-profit organization, GS1 Canada enables its more than 20,000 subscribers – organizations of all sizes from over 20 sectors across Canada – to enhance their efficiency and cost effectiveness by adopting electronic supply chain best practices. Scott joined the HFFT Board of Directors in June 2014 and serves as Chair of the Audit Committee. Scott, his wife Carolyn and their three boys live in Oakville.
Adam Donikian is a National Procurement Manager of Produce for Sobeys Inc. During his thirteen year tenure with Sobeys he has worked in many capacities helping build strong relationships and developing innovative programs. In 2014, he was awarded the Fresh Award from the Ontario Produce Marketing Association for his innovation, passion and dedication to the produce industry. Adam and his wife, Brianne, live in Burlington and are parents to two fiery little girls, Carmen and Scarlett. Adam joined the Board of Directors of HFFT in 2015.
Ryan Maraj is an accomplished leader with experience in commercial and operational disciplines. He is currently the Canadian Commercial Operations Leader in GE Canada’s Current Power By GE division. 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 first term serving on the Board Directors with HFFT, is the 2016 Chair of GE Canada’s United Way program and he is an active leader in the Mental Health initiatives aimed at enhancing GE Canada’s work place culture.
Robert March, Board Member
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.
Margaret Maronese was a teacher with the Halton Catholic School Board for 37 years, with her last 8 years as Vice-Principal. She is now retired but continues to be an advocate for Halton Food for Thought. She served as the HCDSB liaison with HFFT for 5 years and has now been a Board Member for the past 4 years. She is passionate about student nutrition and the alignment with academic success.
Randy Morassut is a principal with the Halton District School Board and has a first-hand experience with the important work done by HFFT in our schools. He has been a resident of Burlington for the last 16 years and has seen the growth in importance of nutrition programs to the success of students in school in his time with Halton. He is a firm believer that sharing a nutritious meal not only provides the physical necessities for success, but as important, helps to develop the social and emotional well-being of children.
Patti is a lawyer who lives in Oakville with her husband and their two children. She was previously a partner in a Toronto boutique litigation firm, practicing civil litigation and administrative law. More recently, Patti has been General Counsel for a regulated health college, providing legal advice and representation on a broad range of matters, including governance, strategic planning, and policy development. She is also an appointed board member of the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario. Patti joined the Board of Directors of HFFT in January 2017
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.
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.
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.
Name: Julie Bertoia
HFFT Role: Burlington Community Development Manager
HFFT team member since: March 2011
My HFFT History: My involvement with HFFT began in 2008 when I started volunteering in the snack program at my children’s school. A year later I transitioned into the role of Volunteer Coordinator and shortly after that, helped start the breakfast program. I loved working with the volunteers, hanging with the students and seeing the positive benefits of the programs so much, that when the opportunity to work for the organization arose, I applied. The rest is history.
Favourite HFFT Mascot and why: I would say my favourite HFFT mascot would be Ollie Orange because he’s a vitamin C and fibre packed powerhouse. Backed by lots of other vitamins and minerals, he’s able to help fight everything from colds, asthma and high cholesterol, to arthritis, heart disease and cancer, by kicking the butts of the nasty free-radicals in our bodies. He’s sweet, versatile and all kinds of awesomeness – and don’t even get me started on those dimples!
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?!?