Born in Hamilton ON, I left after grade 7 to live in St. Catharines where I finished high school and then went off to Macdonald College of McGill University in St. Anne de Bellevue PQ. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I returned to Ontario and did my Dietetic Interneship at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
I started my professional career at the Hospital for Sick Children where I was involved in a massive hospital-wide changeover to tray service for patients, and where I wrote my first article for publication. After a couple of years, I joined the Ontario Department of Agriculture and Food (which has had various names and transformations over the years) and travelled extensively for the Home Economics Branch providing courses, developing recipes, and writing food and nutrition manuals for programs directed to members of the Women’s Institutes, and girls enrolled in the 4H food programs. With this job, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I really enjoyed working with other staff and especially the director, Helen McKercher. I learned so much from that woman about how life worked in government. She gave me much food for thought and many opportunities for growth.
While with the Government of Ontario, I was seconded to the Ontario Ministry of Health and joined another dietitian/home Economist, Jean McCrae, and inspected Nursing Homes within the province. As secondments were a maximum of three years, I returned to Agriculture and Food, and joined the newly built Laboratory Services Branch in Guelph. I spent several years with such programs as the Community Food Advisor Program and sensory evaluation supporting food inspection. Then came the 49% budget cut in the Ministry of Ag and Food. While much of my career had been spent researching, promoting and writing about “good Ontario products,” I decided that having been handed the proverbial bunch of lemons – where few lemons are produced – I would make lemonade, lemon pie, lemon squares and any other lemon creation I could think of. These were in the form of earning a Food Science diploma and subsequent PhD program at the University of Guelph. I studied and explored how consumers handled food (and water) in their homes during an emergency in the context of risk analysis. Foodborne illness piqued my interest because of an incident while in residence at university.
My first business endeavour (with a friend – we were both about 16) was giving parties for children so their moms could enjoy a little me-time. After talking with moms, we prepared all the food, delivered it to the party location along with games and favours at the appointed time, all under the watchful eye and gentle guidance of my friend’s mother. My last business endeavor was working as a consultant in food, nutrition and food safety. I now am involved in some volunteer activities – I will be speaking again on food safety at a conference planned for September in Jamaica.
I have been involved with the Ontario Home Economics Association since before it’s inception. It was about 1975 when Stephanie Charron asked me to be the Ontario representative on the Canadian Home Economics Association Board of Directors and added that anything I could do would be a great help. My jaw literally dropped when I realized Ontario was one of the few provinces that did not have its own home economics association. There were also early rumblings about the need for professional registration. Unlike the United States, Registration is a provincial matter in Canada. So, the need for a provincial association was even greater than fulfilling the essential need for better communication and networking, especially for those not in Toronto.
Doris Badir served as President of CHEA at that time. She was a wonder to watch and admire. I was looking at leadership in action. I learned much from her about how to efficaciously chair a meeting and about how boards worked. She was indeed skillful in getting opinions on the table and involving everyone in discussion, as everyone, not just the talkers, was expected to participate. Most importantly, Doris had an amazing ability to summarize salient issues and actions required for successful outcomes, even in acrimonious situations. As I completed my two-year term with CHEA between 1976-78, I talked up the need for a provincial association to a group of a few friends and associates in Toronto and we met for
about a year or so before the introductory meeting and promised to return a year later with a plan in place. Which we did. The rest is as they say, is history and here we are 40 years later.
Another Home Economist, Barbara Floyd, early in my career explained why keeping membership in Home Economics Associations was important because it formed the basis of our professional domain, even though many of us have areas of specialty. I kept most of my dietetic credentials until recently as I considered that to be my area of specialty. To me, membership in both were necessary as I worked actively in the areas of food and nutrition. Later, I added a further subspecialty to my areas of expertise, that of food safety, and consequently added more memberships in other associations.
And while providing leadership for these organizations is a lot of work and a great time commitment, the rewards that are received far, far exceed what is given. I always considered it was a professional responsibility to provide knowledge opportunities for others as a way of giving back and why I became involved in the idea of OHEA.
What do you think
The future of the profession is what YOU will make it. There will always be a need for managing relationships and resources in the home: people will always need to eat, they will need a place to live, they will need clothes to wear, not to mention keeping things clean and safe, and the need for each other in meaningful relationships. Change will be forever with us. Resilience is the best antidote to change that I know of. Home Economists, in my observation, have an abundance of resilience as they provide resources for families in dealing with today’s complicated, electronic, and time-crunched world. Consider the creative opportunities for dealing with the latest media publicity surrounding emotional labour.
I encourage the association to continue with our branding initiative and look forward to hearing about the latest survey. Our future role depends on it. Home Economists can help. Involvement of other initiatives like Six by Sixteen are to be encouraged too!
Would I change anything in my career? Not likely. Perhaps the order but not the content.
I would like to share something I learned at the 1988 CHEA Conference (I think it was in Winnipeg). Due to a program cancellation, I joined a session called Marketing Me by Barbara Weselake. It literally changed my life. One of the things Barbara spoke of was Angie Arrien’s Four-Fold Way of Life. The short version goes something like this:
This is why I encourage Home Economists to attend meetings, such as our upcoming OHEA meeting. You never know when something or someone will come your way that will change your life. My measure of a successful meeting or conference was that there would be at least one item I could take home and use in my practice on Monday. See you there.
Wanting to learn more information about OHEA's history? Join us on March 23 for our annual conference which will be held in London, Ontario at Brescia University College. Visit oheaconference.ca or ohea.on.ca for more information about the agenda, speakers and to register. We look forward to seeing you there!