CLFI Vision & Mission Statement

The vision for the Centre for Local Food Initiatives (CLFI) is resilient and sustainable local food systems. Our mission is to support, engage with and incubate small-scale and community-based local food projects in order to strengthen local and ecological food practices from farming to food preparation, and to provide opportunities for food based education and skills development to all.

Our beliefs are:

  • small organizations and enterprises are big drivers of local economies,
  • local initiatives foster food systems sustainability and local economic stability,
  • local food is a key factor in the shaping of a region’s identity, culture and food-ways,
  • good and diverse food cultures make happier and healthier communities,
  • small-scale food producers are important members of food systems and deserve the same opportunities and supports as big business,
  • regulations have to be tailored to support local small-scale food enterprises and community food initiatives,
  • playing with our food is necessary in order to have a fun learning experience and to foster creativity and innovative approaches to finding solutions to multiple problems in the food system,
  • hands-on approaches to food production (from growing to eating) are good for body and soul,
  • we need to think globally and act locally, respect the local on a global level, and act according to Gandhi’s doctrine to “be the change [we] want to see in the world”.

The People Behind the Vision

Board of Directors

Julie Ranger (chair): I am passionate about all things food – how it grows, who cultivated it, different ways to cook it and more importantly, eating it! I am always on the look out for local farmers and small-scale entrepreneurs in the community to support. As a new resident of vibrant East York, I want to settle down roots and get more involved with the community. I am a people person too, with a job in sales I enjoy. I was previously on the board of a not-for-profit organization in Montreal that focused on food security.

Robin Poirier (board treasurer): I am an avid outdoors person from the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Following a degree in biological sciences, I spent several years working in the travel industry. While living in Latin America, I began volunteering in education for indigenous women well below the poverty line in Guatemala, Honduras and Peru. I returned to Canada for a Masters degree in Sustainability and Business, leading to work with Canadian First Nations Groups on Community Economic Development projects. Here, I worked on business opportunities in aquaculture and fisheries with First Nations, and developed an expanding interest in issues threatening the oceans. I now work for Ocean Wise, helping businesses adopt seafood choices that are the best choice for the health of the oceans.  I am an advocate for good food and a green lifestyle.

Anne Sabourin (co-chair) is an environmental lawyer and has a Masters in Environmental Studies from York University.

Leah Leon (secretary): I stumbled across the Withrow Park Farmer’s Market one sunny Saturday morning, a week or two after moving to the neighbourhood. It was love at first sight! Then, after a cold, dark winter, eager for some local and organic veggies and fruit, I googled the market to see when it would begin. Lo and behold, I noticed a call for volunteers and thought “Hey, I could do that!”. Now entering into my 5th season as a market volunteer, I am eager to get more involved (so long as my demanding 9 month daughter allows it 🙂 ) and have joined the transitional board for the Center for Local Food Initiatives. I am looking forward to the challenges and rewards that this will bring. When not gallivanting at the market or appeasing my daughter, I work as an Environmental Consultant and also enjoy cooking, reading, knitting, biking and playing hockey.

Mike Leon (director): I’m an award-winning Marketing and Branding Professional with almost fifteen years experience in the Canadian and International Markets. As President and founding
partner of Brand Heroes Inc., I’m responsible for the firm’s strategic direction and can
be credited with building Brand Heroes into a leading boutique branding agency, with a
national client list that includes post secondary institutions, not-for-profits and Fortune 500
technology and digital media corporations. A tip of the iceberg view includes Microsoft,
Mattel, Intel, Rogers, YTV, over half the Post Secondary Institutions in Ontario, The Toronto
Maple Leafs, and more.
In-demand as a speaker, I frequently deliver talks on the power of personal branding
and marketing communications. I hold undergraduate degrees in Communications
and Political Science, a diploma in Television Broadcasting and an MBA in Marketing.
I’m also a Part-time MBA Brand Management Instructor in the School of Business and
Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University and when not saving brands, can be seen
trying to save myself embarrassment as a stand-up comedian.

Ronn Stevenson (director): Although i call myself a ‘Sustainability Catalyst’ for being passionate about sustainable and resilient projects in the City of Toronto I am really just a freak for Systems Thinking and collaboration. Especially if it integrates social, economic and the environmental issues in local communities by working the interconnectedness of everything and everyone. Originally from Western Canada, I originally trained as a graphic artist and animator at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and recently returned to Ryerson University to study Sustainability & Architecture.
I just can’t seem to shake the animator stereotype, whether it is as a Community
Animator or drawing a comic strip based on Sustainability. My latest role is to help
galvanize a community in Toronto to become Carbon Neutral as the Project Neutral
Neighbourhood Manager for Riverdale/Ward 32 on home energy efficiency and lower
household carbon footprints.
As an Architectural Technologist I focus on super high efficiency buildings with
renewable energy and innovative cradle to cradle building practices (think rice hulls and
rammed earth) and waste as energy projects such as a Dog Waste Digester for a City dog
park are also a focus. Animated canine pooh! I’m the founding Vice-president of
Passive Buildings Canada (Passive House Standard) and very active on the committee
for the East End Sustainability Network, the Beach Community Energy Cooperative board
and was heavily involved in the Toronto Urban Agriculture Summit but still can’t grow

Prapti Giri (director):
My name is Prapti and I am cool
I’m the type that stays in school (foo’).
I’ve learned many lessons from Mr. T
maybe taken some too literally.

By now you’ve figured how old I am,
but if you haven’t here are more clues, man.
I have two degrees, both are undergrad,
I’m working on a third because its a fad.

Add twelve years of nursing somewhere in there,
and four years of farmin’ for some fresh air.
Was a vendor at Withrow sellin’ flowers n’ greens,
but farmin’ wages was an end with no means.

We need a world of sustainable food,
not organics at Walmart and Loblewd.

CLFI is a place that can empower,
with kitchens, markets, and love that showers.
We’ll see it grow, unite and be
part of those who want to eat, grow, and be free.

Roberta Stimac (executive director): I am the principle founder and project coordinator of the Withrow Park Farmers’ Market, and a founding member of CLFI. I am a dreamer with a big vision, and have chosen food (the local, the ecological, the small-scale…) as my area of focus. As a descendant of a long line of farmers, an urban gardener and an eater, I can’t think of any other calling I’d rather commit to. I love to create, start and develop, so, naturally, could not resist starting the market and a nonprofit organization in my own backyard.

We are assisted by many volunteers without whose support our vision would remain just that. Volunteers are VIPs!