From preparing meals for those in need, to manufacturing face shields to help protect healthcare workers, Niagara College has gone above and beyond to assist the community over the past year —and these efforts have recently gained formal recognition from the Niagara Region.
Award of Merit certificates were recently delivered to the College as part of the Region’s Niagara Impact Awards, which recognize individuals, non-profit organizations, and private sector businesses for their efforts in improving the quality of life of those living in Niagara.
Launched during the Winter 2021 term, the Canadian Food and Wine Institute’s Feed the Community initiative aimed to address food insecurity and to support health and wellness in the community and within the College’s student population.
Each week, 300 fresh healthy meals were prepared at the CFWI and transported to different shelters on a rotating basis. Some meals were also provided to students living in on-campus residences.
The meals were prepared, cooked and packaged by participating chefs and student volunteers from the Culinary Management program who used top quality products left from the kitchen labs. The team then connected with shelters to transport all the meals each week to those who needed them.
The initiative was spearheaded by chef professor Olaf Mertens with leadership from the CFWI’s former associate dean Gary Torraville (director, International). Chefs Dan Leblanc and Tom Liu joined the effort along with four second-year Culinary Management students who volunteered to get involved. Full health and safety measures were followed, noted CFWI dean Craig Youdale.
“I am immensely proud of our team and their continued support of the Niagara community,” said Youdale. “The Niagara Impact Award of Merit is really special to our staff because it will bring some light to the important issue of food insecurity and also inspire more of our team to join the effort.”
The initiative was applauded by several recipient organizations such as Port Cares Reach Out Centre, which experienced a significant increase in demand for its food bank and meals during the pandemic while facing challenges including a reduction in food donations and staff. In a letter to the CFWI, Amanda Upper, site supervisor at Port Cares Reach Out Centre, noted that CFWI’s Feed the Community initiative helped to make a difference as it provided hundreds of beautifully packaged and artfully crafted nutritious meals for about 1,700 of the agency’s clients.
“These donations could not have come at a better time as the pressure and fatigue of the pandemic begins to set in for our small team who are working tirelessly to keep up with the rising demand,” stated Upper. “We at the Reach Out Centre are truly appreciative to have benefited from this project, and sincerely hope the project may continue to support Niagara foodbanks as they continue to perform this essential work in spite of the hardships of COVID-19.”
Duaa Hussein, food program coordinator at Start Me Up Niagara in St. Catharines, noted that the Feed the Community project provided them with more than 150 meals for individuals with life challenges on multiple occasions.
“The quality of food was excellent and highly nutritious. There were a variety of meals with suitable portions packaged in recyclable appropriate containers that made it easy to distribute to clients,” said Hussein. “Overall, this was such an incredible initiative and had a great impact on our clients as they enjoy those nutritious meals. Start Me Up is very appreciative of the service provided by CFWI Feed the Community project.”
Face Shields manufacturing
An Award of Merit recognized the College’s exemplary support for healthcare workers over the past year through the manufacturing and donation of more than 25,000 face shields.
“Your ability to pivot, design and manufacture these much-needed shields as well as your generosity in donating those to most in need is outstanding,” states the Award of Merit signed by Niagara Region chair Jim Bradley.
In 2020, research at the College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) produced 37,000 face shields, certified by Health Canada with a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class 1). WAMIC distributed 17,300 face shields to the local Niagara Health System for front-line workers, and close to 20,000 shields were donated to other essential workers and community members throughout the province.
The WAMIC research team used computer-aided design to create the face shield prototype and then partnered with a local industry partner, Niagara-based Jay-Line, for its die-cutting services to accelerate the number of plastic visors pressed.
“It’s a priority for us at Niagara College to respond to the needs of our community,” said Marc Nantel, vice president, Research and External Relations. “We are proud to leverage our spirit of innovation to help support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Niagara Health expressed its gratitude for the College’s efforts.
“The Research & Innovation division at Niagara College provided invaluable services at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when PPE inventories were running low, and the supply chains were disrupted,” said Amir Gill, director, Capital Planning, Engineering Services, and Biomedical Engineering, Niagara Health, “The Niagara College team stepped in and started to locally manufacture and supply us with face shields. They continued to send us a daily supply until the supply chains were re-established.”
The project was funded by the Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) through Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) contributions.
(Source: Niagara College news release.)