Our Team

Executive Committee

Jessica Cordes - Chair, Environment & Sustainability

Jessica is a community-centered professional who is passionate about local food systems and resilient cities. With a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, a Masters in Environment and Sustainability, and five years of internationally focused work, Jessica brings an interdisciplinary lens to the food system. To strengthen the local food system, Jessica is excited to support programs and initiatives that engage diverse populations, improve community-wide access to affordable and nutritious foods, enhance food literacy, and enable better networks amongst the local food system. Jessica believes that a sustainable food system works with the environment, builds the economy, and grows equity and community. She has grown her own little community around her home garden by sharing the harvest and sparking conversations, and she is excited to help build a more resilient community around local food in London and Middlesex.

Jose Medina - Vice Chair, Food Processing

Jose is the Sr. Director of Quality for Dessert Holding, with facilities in Atlanta, Houston, Vancouver, and London. Dessert Holding is North America’s premium dessert company, recognized for providing customers with chef-inspired innovative desserts made with real ingredients, a flexible and low-cost supply chain, and best-in-class service. Jose has worked in the food industry for over 25 years in different departments (QA, Maintenance, Production, Continuous Improvement). Prior to coming to Canada, Jose worked for Adams in the confectionary division. He has a food science degree, a Master’s in Science in Manufacturing from the University of Liverpool in England, and an MBA from Universidad de las Americas in Puebla Mexico. Jose has a passion for family, sports, food, and working for and with society to help the community.

Diane McComb - Secretary, Agriculture Association

Mother of her son and two daughters plus one grandchild has opened her eyes to endless possibilities. The journey of life had Diane growing up on a farm near Lucan, Ontario where her family finished beef cattle, grew crops, and cared for laying hens. The beef cattle were later dropped in favour of laying hens. Diane was educated at Fanshawe College and worked for 12 years as a law clerk in both Ottawa and London. After her children were born, she returned to help on the family farm. In 2010, Diane and her brother purchased the farm from their parents. The farm continues with a new generation. Home and School, School Council, Ontario Federation of Agriculture and Farm & Food Care Ontario were groups she was active in as a member and chair. Diane was the elected Director of Egg Farmers of Ontario board for eight years as the representative for Middlesex. While on the board, she chaired Public Affairs, and was also a member of Finance and Production Management Committees.

Thomas Sumpter - Treasurer, Economic Development

Thomas is a Commercial & Agricultural Account Manager with Libro Credit Union. He began working at Libro Credit Union after graduating from Kings University College in 2018 with a degree in Business Management and Organization Studies, specialization in Global Commerce, and a Minor in Psychology. Thomas is a driven individual who is passionate about growing prosperity in Southwestern Ontario. Growing up in a rural town outside of London, Thomas developed an early understanding that building relationships is a key component to interacting with the local community. In his professional career, building relationships is the cornerstone of creating mutually beneficial business solutions. He sees his role on the MLFPC as an opportunity to build relationships, achieve sustainability, and encourage communication around food policies related to rural and urban agriculture.

Board Members

Justin Adema - City of London

Justin Adema is the Manager, Long Range Planning & Research for the City of London and is a member of the Middlesex London Food Policy Council representing the City of London Municipal Staff. In his role with the City, Justin is responsible for a variety of city wide planning policies and strategies including preparing and maintaining the official plan and zoning by-law, and leading various projects related to growth management, affordable housing, and sustainable development. Recently, Justin has worked with his team to improve planning policies and processes to achieve the goals of the City’s Urban Agriculture Strategy.

Lella Blumer - Urban Agriculture

Born and raised in London, Lella was drawn to the prairies after university and Edmonton became home for her family for 26 years before she returned to London in 2015. In her professional and volunteer lives, she has been an advocate, facilitator, researcher, writer, and lifelong learner. Lella is happiest when she is outside, preferably with her hands in the dirt, and everything she knows about sustainable backyard farming comes from her parents who brought that knowledge with them to Canada. Lella believes that access to nutritious food and clean water is the primary issue facing humanity, and that we need to find common ground (so to speak) as we meet that challenge.

John Brennan - Middlesex Centre Municipal Council

John owns and operates a dairy farm on Medway Road. He has been on the Middlesex Centre Municipal Council for 16 years. He has been married to his wife, Heather, for 45 years and they have three children and seven grand kids.

Colleen Crunican - Rural Community Member

Colleen is currently working as a Research Associate at BASF Canada and will begin studying at the Western University in 2022 for Teacher’s College. She previously attended the University of Guelph where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. Colleen has been surrounded by agriculture her whole life, having grown up on her family’s apple orchard and working at neighbouring farms. She has travelled to countries such as Kenya and Costa Rica on mission trips and field courses learning about global food production and food security issues. Colleen is excited to work with the MLFPC and to be more involved in her local food system. She hopes to work towards increasing the communication between community members and farmers to enhance the overall food literacy in this region.

Janan Dean - Research

A city girl through and through, Janan never imagined she would marry a dairy farmer and move to the country to start a family and an agricultural business. Her interest in community development had led to a career in social work and she worked in various nonprofits and provincial politics in the London area. Now, she is working with her husband to open Proof Line Dairy, an on-farm creamery and farm store in Middlesex Centre that offers farm-to-table dairy products 10 minutes north of London. She is excited to be involved with the MLFPC and help facilitate meaningful connections between urban dwellers, Middlesex farmers, nature, and agriculture.

Ramona Dunn - Indigenous

Ind Ramona Dunn is an Anishnawbe Kwe who is a member of the Beaver Lake Cree First Nation. Having been born and raised in Toronto by a mother who was a residential school survivor, Ramona lived first hand through the challenges facing Indigenous people. In the face of these challenges, Ramona worked her way through Nursing school in the late 1970’s and returned to school years later to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Nursing from Ryerson University in 2004. Ramona’s specialty is diabetes education and she is a Certified Diabetes Educator. She brings all of her Traditional Indigenous knowledge and the knowledge acquired through western medicine back to the Indigenous community through her role as a Diabetes Nurse Educator at an Indigenous Community Health Center in London. Her unique experiences have made Ramona an advocate for food sovereignty within the urban Indigenous community and she promotes urban food sovereignty through a garden group that she has been running for the past two years. She also assists in the distribution of food through the Food Hub in London.

Sarah Finch - Rural Agriculture

Sarah Finch is the Communications and Community Projects Manager with Investing in Children, a London-based charity whose goal is to help all children, youth, and families to learn, grow, and thrive. Investing in Children places a high priority on nutrition and offers several nutrition programs. Sarah is responsible for Investing in Children's social media content, designing and maintaining their website, designing and creating all organizational promotional printed, and digital materials. Sarah is also the project manager of several programs including Kids 1st Day, Blue Books for Books, Book Camp London, and Kids Power Conference. Sarah believes it is important for everyone to have access to nutritious foods. Prior to Investing in Children, Sarah spent almost 17 years working for Ontario Farmer Publications, most recently as an editor. As well as the weekly Ontario Farmer newspaper, Sarah was involved in the creation of their specific industry publications for dairy, beef, hog, and crop farmers.

Patrick Hazzard - Food Access

Food security and education are key to London’s prosperity, and Patrick is passionate about ensuring both are equally accessible throughout the city. There is a striking amount of food security related issues, locally and afar, that will become further exacerbated with climate change and the growingly unequal distribution of wealth and resources. Providing a voice to curb these issues is important on any policy council, especially for food. Patrick is excited to pivot his education in space engineering and background in nutrition to the agricultural sector where, in an industry with little change in over 50 years, he believes there is a lot of room to grow. Patrick is grateful to be a part of the team leading this revolution; let’s shoot for the stars.

Esraa Aly Naguib Hassan - Youth

As a person who is passionate about sustainable food systems, foods and nutritional sciences, and helping people, Esraa enjoys working on community oriented projects that develop and empower populations and help communities thrive nutritionally, economically, and health-wise. She has a wide experience working with profit and non-for-profit organizations and charities to make both local and global impacts on our food systems. Her main area of focus is to provide more culturally competent solutions to the issues in the food system. Also, she helps translate and disseminate knowledge and create culturally competent nutrition programs and resources that are employed by our local healthcare workers. Being a council member in the MLFPC will give Esraa the chance to undertake many large-scale impactful projects related to MLFPC cultivation areas of focus and community assessment projects for the end goal of making the local food system stronger, healthier, and more sustainable.

Heather Martin - Food Distribution

Heather is from a 100 acre cash crop farm in Southwest Middlesex. Growing up, she worked at several local farmers markets, and was a member of 4H and Junior Farmers. She earned diplomas in Business Supply Chain Management from Fanshawe College and Agriculture from Ridgetown College. Her love of travel took her to the United Kingdom where she volunteered with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms for several months. Living abroad and in Western Canada has made Heather appreciate London and Middlesex even more for its extensive and bountiful agriculture. Heather's career has been focused on supply chain management for several essential industries: agriculture, medical supplies, and education. There are many efficiencies to be found in the supply chain when the broader perspective of processes are analyzed. She is passionate about the positive impact this role can create in building a circular economy and reducing climate change.

Janie Rother - Urban Community Member

While serving as an employee of the London Chamber of Commerce for 33 years, Janie's main areas of responsibilities centered around event planning and coordination as well as developing strategic partnerships within the business and agricultural communities. Over the years, she was responsible for administering the Chamber’s Agri-Business Committee which consisted of representation from both the business and the ag communities. Some of the more exciting agriculture events that took place were annual Farm Tours, The Changing Faces of Agriculture, and Agri-Net which was a major networking event. Although she is a ‘City Girl’, Janie has always had a passion for agriculture and believe more education is needed in our schools and within the community. We need to empathize the economic impact that agriculture has in Southwestern Ontario and the importance of supporting local whenever possible. Janie is looking forward to working with the Middlesex London Food Policy Council.

Ben Shantz - Middlesex County

Ben Shantz works as an Economic Development Officer for Middlesex County. Born and raised in London, Ontario, Ben has fond memories of visiting the nearby Dairy farm that his grandmother grew up on. Ben attended university in Winnipeg, Manitoba where he lived, studied, and worked for nine years. During his time in Winnipeg, Ben gained experience and interest in local food business, supporting the start-up of a social enterprise café, working at an artisan bakery, and getting involved in a local farmer’s market. After his time on the Prairies, Ben moved back to Ontario to pursue a Masters of Economic Development and Innovation at the University of Waterloo, where he graduated in 2020. Since then, Ben has worked in the field of Municipal Economic Development. Ben is excited to be back close to home and to learn more about the Middlesex London food system and the businesses that support it.

Susan Smith - Education

Susan has a long-standing expertise in nutrition. She graduated from UWO, Brescia University College in 1995 and has been a clinical dietitian at the London Health Science Center for almost 25 years. She has a keen interest in sustainable food systems that create a harmonious urban-rural relationship with a focus on community health and a minimal carbon footprint.

Michael van Holst - City of London Council

Michael van Holst has been the City Councillor for Ward 1 since 2014. He currently sits on the Lake Huron Primary Water Supply System Joint Board of Management, London Hydro Inc. Board of Directors, Rapid Transit Implementation Working Group, Waste Management Working Group, Hamilton Road Business Improvement Area, Elgin Area Water Board, and Governance Working Group.

Vacant - Food Service

Non-Voting Members

Ellen Lakusiak - Coordinator

Ellen Lakusiak is a Registered Dietitian (RD), currently working at the Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) where her portfolio is Food Systems. Ellen has worked as a Public Health Dietitian at the Lambton Health Unit and most recently at Ottawa Public Health. She has also worked for Mead Johnson Canada, Health Canada, and the National Institute of Nutrition. Most of her career in dietetics has been in the area of prenatal and early year’s nutrition. She published her first book entitled, Eating Well When You’re Pregnant in 1997. Her role as Coordinator is to act as a consistent point of contact for MLFPC members and action groups to facilitate collaboration and dialogue. Her hope is to contribute to a more sustainable and healthier local food system by connecting best evidence with key food system stakeholders and to improve the understanding of Middlesex London residents of where their food comes from.

Jane Roy - Coordinator

Jane has been working for the London Food Bank for over 30 years. She currently works as Co-Executive Director. Jane has been involved in many food, hunger, poverty, and social action committees including the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Action Group and as Chairperson of the Ontario Association of Food Banks. She has presented briefs on hunger and poverty to all levels of government and speaks to many local groups about involving citizens in community action. Jane is a long time London resident, is married with three children and is also well known for her work in overseas development.

Julissa Litterick - Canada Life Young Leader

Julissa Litterick joined MLFPC in September 2021 as a non-voting Youth Board Member through the Canada Life Young Leaders Program and Pillar Nonprofit Network. Since then, Julissa has joined many MLFPC committees and is one of our Communications Team Leaders. Prior to MLFPC, Julissa graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelors of Arts & Sciences in Neuroscience, Psychology, and Nutrition & Nutraceutical Sciences. Her undergraduate research focused on leveraging the intersections of arts, humanities, and hard sciences to examine the relationship between food security and mental health. She participated in food security advocacy with the Feeding 9 Billion team at the Arrell Food Institute. She is passionate about food equity, disability justice, and B Vitamins. In her free time, Julissa loves reading, gardening, and caring for her 16+ houseplants.

Volunteers

Amy Bumbacco - Volunteer, Webmaster

Amy is the Communications & PR Coordinator for Mission Services of London. She has a demonstrated history in the non-profit and agricultural sectors having provided executive leadership to J. Steckle Heritage Homestead, managed the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy, built the experiential education curriculum at Ignatius Farm, and provided field management at Fertile Ground CSA Farm. Following her master's degree in Environmental Studies, Amy completed a post-graduate diploma in Social Media Marketing. She finds great excitement in internet marketing, believing in the power of effective communication to inspire, educate, and build community. Amy is most interested in contributing to the MLFPC to utilize her digital marketing skillset and knowledge of sustainable food systems to help foster a healthy and resilient community.

Jean Carson - Volunteer, Governance

Prior to retiring in 2018, Jean's employment had provided her experience within her roles in manufacturing and marketing with Maple Leaf Foods (Thamesford) and Cadillac Fairview Corporation (Masonville Place). She enjoyed being their “face” in Oxford, Middlesex, and London with respect to community involvement. She had the opportunity to work with the London Community Foundation developing philanthropy goals which target food security. She encourages everyone to check out the Maple Leaf Community Fund on the London Community Foundation website! The Middlesex London Food Policy shares the responsibility of selecting successful applicants to this fund with Oxford Community Foundation. Currently, her retired status allows her more time to enjoy her family (including five adorable grandchildren), extended stays at her cottage in Northern Ontario, trips to British Columbia to visit family, and the availability to continue supporting Middlesex London Food Policy Council as a volunteer on the Governance and Grants Committees.

Danica Flores - Volunteer

Danica Flores is a food system and food policy passionate individual. She has been working within the non-profit sphere, helping others build relationships surrounding local and international food systems for three years through her roles as VP External and President of the Western Vegan Society. Through these positions, she has organized Canada’s first University Plant-Based Festival, feeding 700+ Western University students for free alongside organizing other food education events. Besides these roles, she’s also worked with other food system partners within the community, such as the London Food Coalition and The Salvation Army’s Community Garden. Academically, Danica holds an honours specialization in Social Justice & Peace with a minor in Women Studies. Currently, she’s completing a Post-Degree Diploma in Non-Profit Management from Western University. Danica hopes to bring an intersectional lens to the council, while supporting and facilitating projects that serve MLFPC’s mission, vision, and values.

Summer Guo - Volunteer, Social Media

Summer is a third-year dietetics student at Western University. She is always in love with everything about food, so she is passionate about learning how to promote balanced diets to maintain healthy lifestyles. At MLFPC, Summer can share her interests and passions about food with others in the community and learn different things from others who also love food. She joined MLFPC in April 2020 as a social media volunteer, which was a fantastic experience for her. She has been helping with creating content and posts for different social media platforms. She is super excited to continue working in the social media team and cannot wait to share more information about food in the future.

Tiffany Lam - Volunteer, Social Media

Tiffany is a fourth-year student at Western University and is currently finishing an Honours Specialization in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is passionate about learning about the international food system, food literacy, and how nutrition takes part in everyone’s daily life. She joined MLFPC in May 2019 as a Social Media Volunteer. So far, she has been helping MLFPC in managing and creating content for different social media platforms and websites. She is also part of the London-Middlesex Restaurant Support Fund storytelling project team.

Sarah McGhee - Volunteer, Social Media

Joining the organization was of interest to Sarah because of the important role it plays in sharing information about food sustainability, nutrition, and the impact of food consumption on the environment. It is important to her to share this information so that more people learn about the implications of their food choices on the environment. Creating social media posts for MLFPC’s social media platforms has been a great learning experience so far as she creates posts about topics that interest her including nutrition myths, seasonal foods, and local food events.

Puja Pachchigar - Volunteer, Data

Puja is passionate about analyzing the food system and its interactions with human life from the lenses of philosophy, nutrition, and computer science. She believes that access to nutritious food and clean water is a fundamental human right, and can only be achieved by spreading awareness and encouraging community-backed food systems. With a Masters in Computer Science and industry experience of eight years as a Database Administrator, she comes equipped with the knowledge of organizing data and virtual logistics. She wants to apply it to the food system and the various operations related to it. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, she critically analyzes the food system and other related issues from multiple angles. Puja is excited about solving the pressing problem of food waste by spreading awareness about how to avoid it and by establishing a self-reliant food network that can provide access to nutritious food for locals.

Paul Seale - Volunteer, Governance

Paul has been an archivist, an academic, a restaurateur, and a communications professional, but is probably best-known in London for his years of grassroots community development. Having worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, he is convinced that the people who drive these pursuits are more similar than different and sees our common dreams as opportunities for collaboration. With years of work in the restaurant industry and managing a social enterprise grocer, Paul brings experience in issues that affect food service and retail and has a special interest in local, sustainable, equitable, and environmentally responsible behaviors throughout the food system, including supply, retailing, preparation, food access, and food recovery. A community-builder by vocation — he now works in membership engagement at Pillar Nonprofit Network — Paul seeks to bring better democratic systems and citizen engagement to our food system. “I feel it’s urgent to repair our food system to ensure access to good food for all”, Paul says, “and the MLFPC is the perfect place to contribute to the work”.

Alexia Zolis - Volunteer, Social Media

Alexis joined MLFPC because she enjoys helping others in the community and was interested in gathering more knowledge about food policy and sustainable food systems. She is motivated to improve the understanding of food systems in residents of Middlesex London by developing social media content that is informative and helpful. Her position as a social media volunteer has been rewarding because she educates others about food systems while contributing to the growth and development of the MLFPC. In her spare time, Alexis loves to cook, do yoga, and spend plenty of time outside being active.