Preparing tomorrow’s food safety experts

For Ontario’s food and beverage processing industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on many big and sudden changes – everyone has had to adapt quickly to new safety precautions and procedures, and many are working hard to understand the challenges and find effective, solutions as events continue to unfold.

It’s been a trying time to say the least. But for Dr. Amy Proulx, Program Coordinator of Culinary Innovation and Food Technology at Niagara College, having the foresight to be truly prepared for a health emergency like COVID-19 has always been a part of her approach to preparing tomorrow’s experts through an uncompromising education in food safety.

“Dr. Proulx rose to the challenge of COVID-19 long before the pandemic ever began,” says Michelle Lang, a recent student who nominated Dr. Proulx as a Frontline Food Hero.

“For years she has been instilling in us the very values that are so important right now. We were taught to work in a pandemic long before it happened, and it was the confidence that Dr. Proulx instilled in me that allowed me to walk into a meat processing facility and help keep staff safe, food supplies running, and to stand up for what was right, despite the challenges.”

Peer leadership, advocating, and problem solving – according to Lang, these are some of the cornerstones of leadership that Dr. Proulx emphasizes in the classroom in order to ensure her students are prepared. But since the pandemic, Proulx has also gone above and beyond with her students by creating a special YouTube channel called Let’s Learn Food Science

It’s also very reassuring to know that professionals such as Dr. Proulx are working hard to empower students to raise their voice for the continued level of food safety that Ontario can count on. “She’s taught us that we can make a difference to food safety,” says Lang. “Simply by speaking up and not being afraid to make changes in a professional way.”

Underneath Proulx’s above-and-beyond teaching style is a strong sense of respect for the people working in food and beverage processing; according to Lang, the doctor ensures that her students understand the important connection between how workers are valued and their commitment to safety (“From day one, it’s been about building better people,” says Lang).

From one student to the next, Dr. Proulx’s commitment to food safety is obvious. And if Lang’s experience is a good indication of this, you can bet that Proulx’s influence will be felt by many.

“She really is one tough cookie,” explains Lang. “She’s earned my respect, my hard work, and made me remember that there are still people like her in the world.”