Speakers’ Bios

Michael Bloom

Dr. Michael Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning, The Conference Board of Canada — Dr. Bloom is responsible for managing five research groups at the Conference Board of Canada. He also oversees funded research projects and executive networks and has management responsibility for nineteen executive networks. Corporately, Michael is leading the Centre for Business Innovation whose goal is to bring about major improvements in firm-level business innovation in Canada as a cornerstone of improved national competitiveness and prosperity. He is also leading a major multi-year Conference Board research initiative, The Centre for Food in Canada, which is developing a vision, framework and core plan for a Canadian Food Strategy. Dr. Bloom is a graduate of the University of Oxford (DPhil) and Carleton University (BA, MA).

Sean Drygas 2Sean Drygas, Director of Strategy, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. – Sean led the development of Maple Leaf’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy and is currently leading the planning for its implementation. He is also leader of the Riverdale neighbourhood for Project Neutral, seeking to establish a pathway to carbon-neutral urban neighbourhoods. He graduated with an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University and an undergraduate degree from the Ivey Business School at Western University.


Dr. MaMartin Goochrtin Gooch, CEO, Value Chain Management International Inc. — Martin has 28 years’ management experience in the international agri-food industry, having worked in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. His achievements include bringing together businesses and organizations to establish commercially successful agri-food initiatives that have gained international recognition, through setting the benchmark for research, innovation, and marketing from a value chain perspective. Martin holds qualifications in crop and animal production, farm management, and has an undergraduate degree in International Business. His Master’s thesis identified factors critical to the success of perishable food value chain alliances. His PhD identified ways to motivate farmers and managers of agri-food businesses to successfully adapt to changing market demands through developing close, strategic relationships and innovative business practices. Martin helped establish and became the Director of the Value Chain Management Centre (VCMC) in 2008. On April 1 Martin founded and became CEO of VCM International, of which the VCMC became a division at that time.

Rachel KaganRachel Kagan, Vice President, Environmental Sustainability Policy, Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC)  — FCPC is the largest industry association in Canada representing the food, beverage, and consumer products industry. Rachel oversees the association’s environmental sustainability strategy. Her priorities include stewardship/extended producer responsibility, sustainable packaging, food waste, and promoting sustainability initiatives. Prior to joining FCPC in April 2010, she was National Director, Environmental Affairs at Retail Council of Canada. For four and a half years Rachel advocated on waste diversion issues and effectively represented retailers on stewardship boards nationally. Previously, Rachel was Senior Policy Analyst at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, where she developed policy positions in support of economic development in Ontario for three and a half years. Rachel holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Ryerson University and studied financial accounting and economics.

Dan LaplainDan Laplain, Associate, Value Chain Management International Inc. — Dan has a mechanical and production engineering background, and has over 30 years’ progressive operations, quality and project management experience in a variety of industries. As a lean six sigma master blackbelt, he is a recognized expert in developing, marketing and delivering quality management and process improvement initiatives, with a specific focus on improving the performance of value streams and chains. Dan has led, coached or otherwise been significantly involved in hundreds of business and process improvement projects that have saved clients millions of dollars, reduced operating costs, and significantly increased customer satisfaction.

Heather Mak

Heather Mak, Sustainability Manager, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) — RCC is a not-for-profit association that represents more than 45,000 storefronts in Canada. At RCC, Heather works on industry sustainability strategy and driving pre-competitive collaboration on environmental and social issues including those in sourcing, packaging, reporting, waste, and climate change. Prior to RCC, Heather worked in the UK at consultancy and think tank SustainAbility with food and beverage companies, and co-authored the report Signed, Sealed…Delivered?, focusing on the value and challenges of standards, certifications and eco-labels. She also worked at Canadian Business for Social Responsibility as a CSR advisor with retailers, telecommunications, and food brands. Heather holds an MBA in Business and Sustainability from Schulich School of Business at York University and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University.

Ralph Martin

Prof. Ralph C. Martin, Loblaw Chair, Sustainable Food Production, University of Guelph — Ralph C. Martin grew up on a beef and hog farm in Wallenstein, ON. He learned what is essential about agriculture from his grandfather, who died when Ralph was seven. After 4-H, his formal education includes a B.A., a M.Sc. in Biology from Carleton University and a Ph.D. in Plant Science from McGill University.  His love of teaching grew unexpectedly when he began teaching at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, in 1990, and realized how students teach him too. In 2001, he founded the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada to coordinate university research and education pertaining to organic systems, across Canada. In 2011, he was appointed as Professor and Loblaw Chair, Sustainable Food Production at the University of Guelph.

Mark Schembri

Mark Schembri, Vice President, Supermarket Systems and Store Maintenance, Loblaw Properties Limited — Mark has worked with Loblaw for 28 years and is currently responsible for facility maintenance for the 37M square foot real estate portfolio that supports the retail business throughout Canada. He also supports all aspects of energy management and energy procurement, including new store design standards for refrigeration, lighting and HVAC. Mark is an active member of the Independent Electricity System Operation, Stakeholder Advisory Committee and the Ontario Power Authority’s Advisory Council on Conservation.


Katharine SchmidtKatharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Food Banks Canada — Food Banks Canada is the national charitable organization representing the food bank community across the country and supports its membership with national programs and initiatives such as the National Food Sharing System, the annual HungerCount report and program grants. Katharine’s heart led her to the Executive Director role four years ago, as it provided an opportunity to be a change agent for the food banking sector. Since joining Food Banks Canada, Katharine has led the organization through an extensive organizational restructuring and brand renewal process, enabling it to better achieve its mandate of being the voice for hungry Canadians. This renewal has resulted in a six-fold increase in the organization’s annual investment in support to food banks, doubled the amount of donated food acquired and shared with Canadians (now at 33 million annually) and has put Food Banks Canada on the map with the public and government. Over the past 25 years, Katharine’s professional accomplishments have focused on organizational management, capacity building, and policy and advocacy development and implementation in business, government, non-profit and charitable organizations. She has worked at a senior level with stakeholders in the agri-food industry including producers, processors, distributors, and retail and food services. She holds a Masters of Business Administration degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree (Family Studies Major) from the University of Guelph.

Jason WadsworthJason Wadsworth, Sustainability Coordinator, Wegmans Food Market, Inc. — Wegmans is an 82-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Virginia. The family-owned company, founded in 1916, is widely recognized as an industry leader and innovator. Named one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” by FORTUNE magazine for 16 consecutive years, Wegmans ranked #5 on the list in 2013. Jason Wadsworth is Wegmans’ Sustainability Coordinator and a third generation Wegmans employee, having been with the company for 24 years. He is responsible for leading sustainability efforts by partnering with leadership as they focus on triple bottom line initiatives that are good for the environment,  people and the company. Jason is a founding member (2007) of the Food Marketing Institute’s Sustainability Executive Committee and Chairs FMI’s Sustainable Packaging Committee. Jason is also active in FMI’s Animal Welfare Committee and the Joint FMI/GMA/NRA Food Waste Reduction Alliance where he co-chairs the Best Practices committee.

Peter Whitehead Dr. Peter Whitehead, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society — Peter has worked on waste prevention since 2002. From 2012 he has been a contractor for WRAP (Waste Reduction Action Plan) and manages several projects on waste prevention working with the major retailers and manufacturers in the UK as part of the Courtauld Commitment. These projects examine how key activities including promotions, product life setting and procurement can be used to drive down waste levels. Peter is advising a number of UK retailers who are signatories to the Courtauld Commitment on waste prevention and has led WRAP’s work on the measurement of waste in the grocery supply chain. He has also supported WRAP in its application of value stream mapping as part of a programme of waste prevention reviews. Prior 2012 he was employed by IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution), where he undertook several commissioned projects for WRAP and managed the Food Chain Centre. The Food Chain Centre operated from 2002-7/8 and was a key plank in the then Government’s policy on sustainable farming and food. The Centre pioneered value stream mapping across agri-food supply chains working with leading practitioners from Cardiff and Cranfield Universities. The work of the Centre delivered significant cost savings. Before joining IGD he worked in MAFF (now Defra) on various policy roles including initially, on joining, as an economic adviser. Peter has a first degree in economics and a PhD in geography.

Sarah WilhelmSarah Wilhelm, Executive Chef, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts It comes as no surprise that Sarah Wilhelm is known as a top Home Grown Chef. Sarah’s grandparents, a butcher and a bookkeeper who survived two World Wars and the great depression, taught Sarah the importance of responsible food management. In 1977 her parents purchased 150 acres to grow and raise their own food, not only teaching Sarah the value and processes of agricultural, but how all things are connected and need one another. In 2000 Sarah started her own catering company Bitchin’ Kitchen. Later that year she purchased Catering By Design. Over the next 10 years Sarah built a reputation as the Queen of local seasonal gourmet cuisine and sauces packed with flavor and sass. In 2010 Sarah was tempted by an offer to become the Executive Chef at the Corporate Office of The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Since then, Sarah continues to focus on serving fresh, local food. She has made it her mandate to improve quality and service while reducing waste and managing budgets. She trains her staff and the employees about the importance of portion control, healthy choices and reducing food waste. With dirt in her blood and the Earth in her soul, it is no wonder that creating awareness of conscientious purchasing, coherent menu creation and creative left-overs, recycling has become Sarah’s passion.