volunteer executive director
Pam is the founder and volunteer executive director of GROW, Canada’s first community food literacy centre. Her calling to positively impact others through food literacy has grown from a seed of inspiration into a national crusade. Since emigrating from Switzerland in 2001, she has utilized her unique skill set as a farmer, teacher, researcher, and community advocate to improve the systemic barriers low-income Canadians face when accessing good food.
Pam started GROW while simultaneously completing her doctoral studies at the University of Calgary. When the Scouts Canada building was for sale in the city’s most disadvantaged neighbourhood, she purchased it with her own funds to start something that would change how we address food insecurity. She collaborated with all three levels of government and community partners to secure funding and support. Taking rapid action and with a laser focus, she quickly evolved into a leading voice for food literacy. She created numerous food literacy programs and collaborations with various stakeholders to create sustainable programs and a place for low-income residents of all ages and cultural backgrounds to enjoy a healthier, more just future with food. Her work is informed by research and the many inspiring people who have entrusted their stories to her.
Pam is an award-winning educator, researcher, and university lecturer at the Werklund School of Education teacher education program at the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on the intersection of sociocultural factors and food literacies, where she explores elements of critical food literacy, food citizenship, and food security. She is one of the few scholars investigating food literacy from a socio-cultural lens. Her work advances our understanding of the sociocultural impacts on food literacy that inform and influence the food literacies of low-income residents living in food deserts and food swamps. Her research and community work are future-oriented, innovative, transformative, and grounded in real experiences. Her community work focuses on understanding health disparities, social determinants of health (including racism), and promoting health and social equity in food that is central to a more just food system.
Pam is a philanthropist who has volunteered over 6,000 hours and donated money, experience, skills, and talent to help create a better world. Her cutting-edge research made a significant societal impact that has led to positive change. Her innovative programs and low-cost market located in one of the most underprivileged areas have been accessed over 20,000 times in the last two years.
Pam has received national awards and international attention for her research and work in strengthening the local food environment to be resilient, community-focused, and sustainable. Her work has contributed to a more inclusive city, and her efforts and improving food security in the most deprived area of the city where single women-led households are disproportionately affected will continue to make a profound and lasting impact.
Learn more about Pam and her reasons for starting GROW in this short video.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
DR. KENISE MURPHY KILBRIDE
Kenise Murphy Kilbride is a retired Ryerson University professor whose areas of research and teaching have been immigration and settlement, seniors, families and children, and women and language learning. Active in her community for many years, she has served on and chaired the Boards of the Toronto Social Planning Council and the Daily Bread Food Bank. In the latter, she was instrumental during her tenure in fundraising for a permanent structure that could also provide a training program for young people and the unemployed for jobs needed in the food industry. She was also part of a small group of women concerned about girls leaving home before finishing high school and hence started a local program to help them to complete school.
She has written and edited several books, one of which was printed in 32 languages, as an introduction for immigrant parents needing information on Canadian childcare, education, health care, language classes, job hunting, and other topics important to their settlement and integration into Canada. She is widowed with two children and three grandchildren.
Wendy Borelli brings 35 years of experience as a teacher in the public education system and as a Community Education Coordinator for the Burnaby School district in British Columbia. She is a graduate of both the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, originally specializing in special education. In her role as Community School Coordinator in an inner-city school she helped to provide educational and settlement support to students, families and government-assisted refugees in the community. Poverty-reduction and food security were the two main areas of school/community concern in her particular area of Metro Vancouver. Her role was to enhance student well-being by accessing community services and supports, initiating and maintaining a breakfast program, various healthy snack programs, a Strong Start Centre, a free food cupboard, The Good Food Box, food recovery programs and a community kitchen for parents and nearby community members.
In the role of Community Coordinator she also sat as chair of the Eastburn Interagency Committee, the mandate of which is to bring community agencies together to provide support services to individuals, families and specific groups in the area; the chair of The Empty Bowls project, which planned a biennial gala event to raise money to provide grants for food programs throughout Burnaby; a member of the Preschool Fair Committee, which organized an event that provided healthy snacks, early developmental screening and referrals for services for preschoolers; and a member of Food First, a committee that developed programs to address the concerning issue of food insecurity in inner-city communities.
During Wendy’s retirement year, the Food First Committee was in the process of developing a partnership with the local food bank to create a hub where community and health services would connect with food bank recipients on food bank days. Wendy brings a diverse and comprehensive mix of competencies viewed through a social justice framework. She now applies her diverse leadership experience to help GROW identify emerging trends, engage in critical policy issues, exchange proven practices and review specific programs to advocate and advance food security.
Maya Jonas brings a wealth of knowledge, expertise and passion to GROW’s Board of Directors.
Maya is a gifted athlete who continues to pursue excellence in sports and life. Her determination and athleticism are admirable, even before you discover she is totally blind. Despite receiving a diagnosis that could have changed the course of her life, Maya has never encountered a challenge from which she would back down. Maya was diagnosed at the age of 24 with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that caused her to lose her sight. Rather than allowing the condition to affect her quality of life, she decided to tackle things head on. “Without challenges, life would be so boring,” she said. “I need new challenges every day.” Maya competed in the Canada Winter Games and won one silver and two bronze for cross country skiing. She has also run in numerous marathons including Boston, New York, Chicago, San Diego and Toronto. Maya was bitten by the tandem cycling bug last year when she completed the 90km Cycle For Sight ride in Vancouver and more recently the 100km ride in Toronto.
Maya, also a cancer survivor, had to deal with stress and difficulties on many levels. She is committed to helping others who are in need of help. Maya’s motto is “never back down, never give up!” Needless to say, her favourite song is “I Won’t Back Down”, by Tom Petty.
Maya has served on various boards of directors in the past and has actively fundraised for the CNIB and the United Way Speaker’s Bureau, The Blind Sailing Club. She has also devoted much of her time to fundraising for Achilles Canada, a non-profit organization that helps disabled athletes experience the joy of running by matching them with support runners or guide runners to prepare them for major marathon events. Maya is the recipient of the Toronto Volunteer of the Year Award and the Ontario Service Award.
Maya is a fierce advocate and reminds us that many of the 681,000 blind people living in Ontario are not working and cannot afford to buy and access good healthy food. She will oversee and guide the cooking classes for the blind and for critical illness survivors.
When she is not training or advocating for social justice, she loves to entertain and cook. Maya lives with her guide dog Faith.
Rose Iannacchino is a Niagara Falls real estate agent and philanthropist who has donated her time and money to support our community. Her extensive background in business, finance, management, and leadership have provided her with the skills and knowledge to help advance GROW's mission and vision.
Since the inception of GROW in 2019, Rose has made an exceptional contribution to GROW. She has created so many meaningful relationships and continues to make valuable contributions to the quality of life of our members. She is insightful and has garnered the respect and admiration of the volunteers, our members, the community advisory committee, and the Board of Directors.
Rose is an expert multi-tasker and is always advocating for our members. As one community member said, "she is adored by everyone".