Volunteering provides you with so many opportunites and then some!

I am a firm believer in Volunteering – of giving back to your community, to a cause you believe in, to an organization you support, to a student who wants to grow, to a Team to better your workplace experiences…  whatever it is that you choose to support with your time, ideas, experience, talent, skills or hands-on labour, will inevitably leave you with exposure to new ideas and new networks and an appreciation for the strength that comes in teamwork and of the talents that volunteers bring to the table…  making anything possible!

There are a number of organizations that I have worked with during my lifetime and it is safe to say that I have held just about every role from Press Reporter to President beginning at an early age in 4-H…  that followed with early volunteer presentations as a Dairy Princess and Fall Fair Queen…  Eventually, community activities caught my interest and I eagerly joined a tiny group of people with a huge amount of spirit, drive and ambition in the development of our Kincardine Scottish Festival.  Despite the odds against us – 15 years later – our Festival is stronger than ever – in fact, it recently won an award!  And then there was  a whole summer spent with my husband both of us working full time and project managing a double build for Habitat for Humanity with 200+ volunteers and limited experience – in fact, I can still remember pouring cement and raking sidewalks at midnight to prepare for an open house the next day, and the list goes on…  I am sure that you and your families too have similar stories to tell!

Volunteering helps us grow – it helps us appreciate the organizations we believe in, the communities that we live in, the people that we work with.  Today, in addition to actively volunteering as a Mentor at the University of Western Ontario – something that I have truly enjoyed – and participating in a rural Women’s Institute Organization that I have been a Member of for the past 30 years, I was recently honoured to be elected to the position of Director of Events for WFIM (Women in Food Industry Management) – a role I have eagerly embraced and look forward to growing in!

WFIM – Women in Food Industry Management (www.wfim.ca) is an organization that I became familiar with in 2009 through a friend in the Food Industry who suggested I might like to attend an event.  I was delighted to be invited and eager to learn about the organization.  The first session I attended had me at the get-go – in fact, I even blogged about it, I was so impressed at the time!   (http://www.emccanada.org/blogs/emcfoodsec/learningth)…  Needless to say, I’ve attended several sessions since that first meeting, have met countless wonderful people and learned so much in the process.

So who is WFIM – well, this is an organization that is dedicated to supporting professionals to become “The Best Women at the Table” by encouraging advancement through networking and executive development.  Its Board is guided by common goals – to support women in our field, to connect them for their mutual benefit, and to help them develop into what we like to call “The Best Women at the Table”.  There are close to 200 Members from all facets of the food industry (CEO’s, Sales, Marketing, HR, Food Safety, Services, etc.) with representation in Ontario and Quebec.

We host special events featuring topics of interest, book reviews, culinary sessions, tours, roundtable networking academies, Gala dinners and a golf tournament – and, we always provide ample time to network with one another!  My favourite tour to date has to be at SCM (Supply Chain Management) – watching that distribution centre in action left me in awe and hearing about their best practices in sustainability and employee engagement – had me scratching notes frantically in an effort to learn all that I could.  And also, without a doubt, I am a solid supporter of the Roundtable Networking Academy Event that runs every fall – this is an incredible opportunity to connect with industry leaders on leadership principles, self-development and careers in the food sector and business in general.

As the new Director of Events, I am humbled by the opportunity to work with a talented Team of ladies with a variety of backgrounds and experience all relating to the food industry.  Together with the Board of Directors, we are looking forward to showcasing some interesting subject matter over the next couple of years and we welcome anyone with an interest in taking part to join in on the fun!  And yes, men are welcome too!

If you would like to know more about WFIM or are interested in joining us at one of our upcoming events, please feel free to drop me a line at events@wfim.ca!  We would love to have you participate!

Yes, volunteering truly broadens your perspectives and exposure to new things.  It provides you with an opportunity to enhance your team-building skills, to network with others and develop relationships, understand operational tactics, and to seek out answers perhaps in unfamiliar territories enhancing your learning experience.   It builds stronger organizations like WFIM, it strengthens companies through involvement of their staff, it enhances community development, and it lends to our own individual experiences, knowledge-base and self-confidence!

I encourage you to volunteer whether for a few minutes or a few years – you will be glad you did because getting involved brings so much more back to you in so many countless ways!

All the best!

Bren de Leeuw

September Networking Event -Niagara-on-the-Lake Chocolate & Wine!

Wow!  What a great escape we had to Niagara-on-the-Lake today!   The weather held out, and by the time we reached the Niagara area, we had blue skies & warm temperatures.  Only traffic getting to the car pool parking lot to meet the bus turned out to be a problem for a few.

After being challenged by Chocolate Trivia questions on the bus ride, we arrived at our first destination, Chocolate F/X in St. David’s.   We were greeted by Art, who gave us a brief history of the company owned by his wife, Wilma.  They refer to their life in terms of BC – Before Chocolate, and present!   Art discussed the making of chocolate, and we were able to see an actual cocoa pod & smell the chocolate mulch & chocolate liqour, and feel the cocoa butter (yes, it’s very smooth, no wonder it’s used for skin care products, in addition to being used to make white chocolate!).   Art also told us that you can use the chocolate mulch in your garden – and it will smell like chocolate when it rains!

After a look at their panning, molding & enrobing lines, we got right to the action!  We had a “chocolate bar challenge”  where the theme for our challenge was “BLING”  (How appropriate for a group of women!).  Off we went…one of the ladies on the (all-female shift) team spooned melted chocolate into molds, and then set it on a vibrating table to make the chocolate fill the mold, and let the air bubbles escape.  Then we were presented with an array of decorations:  sprinkles, sparkles, silver balls, marshmallows, licorice, almonds…..ooops, I got chocolate on my fingers, and I couldn’t resist licking them!  (I know, working in the food industry I should know better!)  The melted chocolate acted like glue so that our beautiful creations would stay put.  Into the fridge it went to chill.  Then we indulged in dipping strawberries into milk, white and dark chocolate.  Looks easy when a professional does it!  My white chocolate drizzle looked more like a blob.  Off they went to chill.  Now our chocolate bars were hardened, and each group had to select a favorite to “market” to the Chocolate F/X team. Selections ranged from “for the love of chocolate breast cancer awareness bar”,  “my darling princess bar”,  Michael Kors “purse bar” (no trade mark theft happening here…), to “Sex in chocolate” bar.   The winner was…the “Purse bar”.    What a fun morning!  Imagine, if a group of women had this much fun, what a birthday party for kids would be like!

Onto NOTL for lunch/shopping.  Corks Winebar & Eatery, the Coach House at Queen’s Landing, and Epicurian were a few places frequented for lunch.   Greaves Jam was a favourite shopping spot, and other purchases noted were knitted hats!  Lots of variety in the heritage district.

A quick trip on the bus took us to Pillitteri Winery.   Lauren greeted us, and took us on a fabulous tour of the winery & vineyard.  We learned about icewine, grape varieties, pressing techniques,  the symbolism behind the Pillieteri “family shield” and the significance of the number 23.  A structured tasting of a Gewurztraminer/Reisling blend, Merlot, and a Vidal Icewine was followed by shopping in the wine store & fruit market.  Back on the bus, we were presented with wine trivia, which wasn’t quite as hard because we had such an informative tour.

A fun-filled day ended back in Oakville, in anticipation for the next WFIM event – “Learn to build long-lasting connections – with Donna Messer” on October 10th!  (Registration is now open at www.wfim.ca)


Hello and welcome to the Women in Food Industry Management blog!  We’re delighted to launch this new platform for discussing hot topics relating to the Canadian food industry and being a Canadian woman in business.

For more information about the WFIM organization, please check out our website: www.wfim.ca.  At WFIM, we’re dedicated to supporting professionals in becoming “The Best Women at the Table” by encouraging advancement through networking and executive development.

We’re excited about all that this new blog will offer our wonderful community and look forward to dialoguing with you!