Leanne Hedberg, MBA, SPHR
A blissful transplant to Edmonton, Leanne is a PhD candidate in the program of Strategic Management and Organizations at the University of Alberta. Her research aims to better understanding what happens when social movements, like the sustainable foods movement, enter the corporate sphere. She hopes her research can inform policy creation and organizational design. Leanne’s research also focuses on how differing organizations collaborate to address social issues. Prior to entering the PhD program, Leanne served in management and executive roles, one in which she spearheaded the development of a partnership between a healthcare system, technical college, grassroots non-profit and a community foundation. The partnership co-developed and co-governs an urban agriculture centre housed in a sustainably-built educational greenhouse in the heart of the city (La Crosse, WI). When she is not working, you will likely find her in the off-leash section of Laurier park pretending, for about thirty seconds at a time, that one of the dogs is hers.

Daniel Kielback
Daniel has worked as a researcher, project developer, digital communicator, and volunteer engagement coordinator for sustainable development initiatives. He has a M.Sc in Geography, a Permaculture Design Certificate, and has completed a Fellowship in Social Entrepreneurship. His interest in food, began with enhancing food waste collection and industrial composting at Concordia University in Montreal. He then aided with the development of Montreal’s City Farm School. Since moving to Alberta, he has volunteered with the Calgary Eats! Steering Committee, with the University of Alberta Campus Garden, and the City of Edmonton’s Master Composter Recycler program. Daniel is actively occupied by interests in organizational development, futurism, design, and sustainable development.

Billy Smale
With over eight years’ experience working with the Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating (APPLE Schools), Billy Smale has worked extensively with school communities to develop social and physical environments that support students’ healthful behaviors. Billy nurtured bodies and minds by creating snack, cooking and taste testing programs, while also facilitating the development of healthy eating school policies. His experience in community engagement, public health and communications will be an excellent fit for the Edmonton Food Council, and he is excited to support Edmonton in developing a resilient local food and agriculture system.

Mel Priestley
Mel Priestley is a journalist, food writer and wine author. She has written for numerous publications and is a former editor for Vue Weekly. In 2009 she published a wine book (Book of Canadian Wine), through local Edmonton publisher Blue Bike Books.

An avid backyard gardener, amateur ecologist, environmentalist, and born-and-raised Edmontonian, Mel is an ardent supporter of urban agriculture and is passionate about bridging the gaps within Edmonton’s food system. She holds a degree in Honours English from the University of Alberta and has completed the Certified Sommelier (level 2) designation through the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Sacha Deelstra
Sacha Deelstra has worked in human services for the past seven years. Her perspective on the food system is informed by her experience coordinating an evening meal program in the inner-city of Edmonton, as well as coordinating and participating in community kitchens and community garden projects. Sacha has a MA in Community Development. She serves on the board of directors of WECAN Food Basket Society.

Sandra Ngo
Sandra is currently the Community Resource Coordinator for the Multicultural Health Brokers. She is designing food security programming that serves immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeking families within our city. Sandra has worked farmers’ markets, restaurants, and served on the Board of Directors for Sustainable Food Edmonton. She has also done research for Food: Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE) project, Prairie Urban Farm, and the Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology. She recently completed her M.Sc. in Resource Economics where she researched consumer preferences for vitamin A-rich foods in both India and Canada.

Dustin Bajer, Co-Chair
Dustin Bajer is a teacher, master gardener, and permaculture designer living and working in Edmonton. Since spring 2010, Dustin has been the driving force behind the permaculture program at Jasper Place High School. In this time, he has helped students work with ecological patterns and principles to establish multiple food producing forest gardens and Canada’s first school aquaponics system. Passionate about education, ecology, and design, Dustin believes that a vibrant local food culture could not only build and nourish our communities but increase biodiversity, capture carbon and water, and provide important project-based, hands-on learning opportunities.

Kirsta Franke, Co-Chair
A born and raised Edmontonian, Kirsta Franke has a decade of experience in the food and restaurant industry. Her work for the 124 Street Business Association as Communications Director has allowed Kirsta to bridge a gap between producers, local businesses and citizens. In 2012, Kirsta spearheaded and founded the 124 Grand Market, an evening farmers’ market located in the heart of 124 Street. With a focus on connecting the rural to the urban, the 124 Grand Market has met resounding success in its two seasons and through this, Kirsta has become an important voice within Edmonton’s developing food scene. Kirsta hopes to bring a youthful, informed and creative perspective to the Edmonton Food Council and is keen to serve the interests of all Edmontonians, especially when it concerns what they have on their dinner tables.


Mack Male
Mack Male is a passionate Edmontonian and self-described geek. In 2009 Mack was named one of Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 by Avenue Edmonton, and in 2010 he was named one of Alberta’s Next 10 Most Influential People by Alberta Venture. His blog was named “Best Local Blog” in Vue Weekly’s 2012 Best of Edmonton, and he was also named “Best Local Twitter”. In 2013, Mack’s blog was named “Best in Edmonton” at the first annual Edmonton New Media Awards. Mack is co-founder of What the Truck?!, Edmonton’s food truck extravaganza; Eat Alberta, a hands-on food skills conference; and Blink, a series of pop-up restaurants and events.

Shirzad Chunara
Shirzad Chunara is a registered dietitian, with a Master’s degree in Community Health. She’s been working with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development for the past 11 years, sharing information on funding programs and available resource to the Agri-processing industry. She also coaches companies, encouraging the development of healthier food options. The Earthbox Kids project she co-led allowed her to combine her passion for food and healthy communities by implementing indoor gardens in over 100 schools throughout Alberta. Shirzad is also an active volunteer locally and the volunteer strategy coordinator on an international steering committee. She writes and edits articles promoting healthy eating and lifestyle behaviours by providing nutritional alternatives to traditional East African and South Asian recipes.

Simone Demers Collins
Simone Demers Collins is a professional home economist who has managed her private consulting firm for many years, during which time she was responsible for the province of Alberta’s Farmers Markets program, planned the Alberta Horticultural Congress, was a sessional professor at the Faculté St. Jean/University of Alberta, did food styling for Toronto’s Argyle Communications and Apex Public Relations, and taught adult education for Metro and Recreation Departments in the greater Edmonton area. Simone’s volunteer efforts included being president of the national Food Safety Information Society.

Thomas Lynch-Staunton
Tom Lynch-Staunton is currently working as the Issues Manager for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and in Government Relations for Alberta Beef Producers (ABP). Previously he worked at Livestock Gentec, the genetics and genomics program at the University of Alberta, as the Director of Industry Relations, and continues to work out of the Gentec office in his current industry role, maintaining a positive collaboration between CCA, ABP and the UofA. He has strong practical and lifetime experience in the livestock industry, growing up on and eventually co-managing the family owned Antelope Butte Ranch (est.1885), a mixed 1000 head cow/calf operation, with his brother in Southern Alberta.  Tom received a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Business from Simon Fraser University and is also currently pursuing a part-time MBA at the UofA, specializing in Sustainability and Public Policy, as he continues working. Tom is currently a mentor in the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program, he chairs the National Beef Sustainability Assessment Working Committee in the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, and also recently co-chaired the Alberta Beef Producers AGM last December. Lastly, he is a member of the Edmonton Food Council, with a keen interest in growing urban agriculture.

Edmonton Food Council 2016

Back row, from left to right: Sacha Deelstra, Mack Male, Meghan Dear, Dustin Bajer, Sandra Ngo, Billy Smale, Cory Rakowski.
Front row, from left to right: Mark LaRue, Mel Priestley, Kirsta Franke, Thomas Lynch-Staunton, Kathryn Lennon (City staff).
Missing from picture: Shirzad Chunara, Simone Demers Collins, Heather Shewchuk, Jimmy Shewchuk.


Meghan Dear
Meghan Dear is the founder of Localize, an Edmonton-based start-up that is testing ways to strengthen the relationship that consumers have with food producers through an innovative approach to grocery shelf and product labelling for local food. She has a degree in Biology and Agriculture, and is an accredited Professional Biologist. Meghan has worked in a variety of agriculture sectors, including working on her family farm of Strawberry Creek Gardens, working for the Alberta Research Council in Crop Science research, and working overseas to delivering food security programs and to develop better agriculture marketing solutions in the developing world.

Cory Rakowski
A professional chef with over 20 years’ experience, Cory is a passionate food advocate whose career has taken him through kitchens across Canada. Drawing on personal experiences, Cory has dedicated his career to bridging the gap between the hospitality industry and local charities. He has been a strong supporter of the Ronald McDonald House’s Home for Dinner program & Y.E.S.S. He has also been an instructor for the City of Edmonton’s culinary arts program at the City Arts Center, & has lectured in local schools about food security & careers in the hospitality industry. An avid gardener, fisherman, & outdoorsman, Cory’s connection to food and urban agriculture is deeply personal and rooted in his family’s agricultural background. A strong and vocal supporter of Edmonton’s food scene, Cory hopes to provide the citizens of Edmonton with an active link to the hospitality industry through his role on the Food Council.

Heather Shewchuk
Heather Shewchuk is the current Director of Agriculture at Northlands and has amassed 15 years of experience working with Alberta’s agriculture industry. Since her graduation from the University of Alberta with a bachelor of commerce degree in April of 2000, she has devoted much of her professional life to the development of business relations within Alberta’s agricultural sector. A true champion of the agriculture industry in Alberta and beyond, Heather has been instrumental in highlighting our industry on the world’s stage and ensuring the vitality of Alberta agriculture on a local, national and international scale. Her passion for local food and the city of Edmonton has allowed her to give back to the community by sharing her wealth of knowledge and ensuring that the idea of “fresh” stays in our local food system for years to come.

Jimmy Shewchuk
Jimmy Shewchuk has worked as a consultant, concept-developer, trend expert, Owner and Operator in the Hospitality Industry in Edmonton and parts of Western Canada. For 15 years, Jimmy has been involved as an entrepreneur with many of his own individual restaurants, clubs and currently a catering company. He has worked on developing various hospitality boards and has helped shift policy and social responsibility around the industry. In October of 2013 he joined the team at Edmonton Economic Development to assist in growing hospitality business in the Edmonton region. He is a former board member of the Old Strathcona Business Association.

Mark LaRue
Mark is a professional landscape architect and has been providing broad-based landscape design and project management services for more than 29 years. As a Principal in the Stantec Urban Development group in Edmonton, Mark is part of the leadership team that manages their multi-disciplinary staff and is the Practice Leader for Landscape Architecture. Many of Mark’s most significant projects include administering the design and construction of large-scale public infrastructure improvements and private developments. Project types include master planned communities, multi-family housing, commercial and industrial development, urban design, streetscapes, and park and recreational facilities. Mark is a LEED accredited professional and is passionate about seeking opportunities to apply sustainable design principles appropriate for each of his projects. Mark attended The Ohio State University and graduated in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture. He began his professional practice in San Diego, California where he and his wife Cindy lived for 27 years while raising their three children. Mark and Cindy relocated to Edmonton in 2011 and now live in Rossdale.

Brent Swallow
Brent Swallow is Professor and Chair of the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. Dr. Swallow grew up on a Saskatchewan farm and earned bachelor and master degrees from the University of Saskatchewan and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Between 1991 and 2009, Dr. Swallow lived and worked in Kenya, first with the International Livestock Research Institute and later with the World Agroforestry Centre. He moved to Edmonton with his wife and four children in 2009 and continues to be actively involved with research on food security in Asia and Africa. His newest research projects are concerned with the phenomena of ‘food deserts’ in Edmonton and farmland conversion and fragmentation in Alberta’s Capital Region. He has authored over 150 books, journal articles, book chapters and research papers. For the last four years, Dr. Swallow has taught a class on agri-food systems in which students learn about food and agricultural issues in the Edmonton area through volunteer work with local organizations. He supports the Sustainable Food Initiative of the University of Alberta Students Union, including the new campus farmers’ market.

Carley-Jane Stanton
Carley-Jane Stanton is the founder of the Alder Food Security Society, a non-profit organization aiming to make fresh, local food available to all, regardless of income. Carley-Jane has had many roles in the Edmonton food community, from a Market Manager with the Southwest Edmonton Farmers’ Market to a farm hand with Riverbend Gardens, to an Agriculture and Resource Economics student at the University of Alberta. She is passionate about food security and equitable economic development and looks forward to serving Edmontonians on the Edmonton Food Council.

Marjorie Bencz
Marjorie began with Edmonton’s Food Bank in 1987 as a volunteer. In 1989, she became the Executive Director of Edmonton’s Food Bank. Marjorie became involved on a provincial and national level, serving on the Boards of Directors for the Alberta Food Bank Network Association and the national body, Food Banks Canada (formerly the Canadian Association of Food Banks). Over the years, Marjorie’s work and dedication to vulnerable Edmontonians has been recognized with a number of community awards such as an honorary diploma in Health and Community Studies from Grant MacEwan Community College and being named Global TV’s Woman of Vision. In May, 2012 in the category of Community Service, Marjorie was honored with a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award. Also in 2012, she received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2006, Marjorie was invested into the Order of Canada in the category of Social Science. Marjorie believes that this recognition is not for her role, but for the collective support she receives from Edmontonians, Albertans and fellow Canadians in reducing hunger in our communities. Marjorie lives with her husband Mike and has three grown daughters and four grandchildren.

Philip Yu
Philip Yu is a born and raised Edmontonian who passionately believes that life happens around the dinner table. He strongly believes everyone should be able to enjoy a good meal with good wholesome ingredients. A self-admitted foodie, Philip enjoys spending time at local restaurants and farmers markets. As a Category Manager for a major grocery chain he has developed a strong understanding of the food industry and is eager to use that knowledge to benefit his local community. Philip recently completed a Masters Degree in International Trade.