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Jessica Laidley

Food Resource Centre Manager
United Way Sault Ste. Marie & Algoma District
Jessica Laidley
Jessica Laidley
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

Jessica Laidley is a Food Resource Centre Manager for United Way Sault Ste. Marie & Algoma District.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

I now live in: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

I completed my training/education at: I am a double BA recipient from Algoma University, (History/English and Sociology). I also have a certificate in Sustainable Urban Agriculture from the University of Guelph.

What I do at work

I manage the day-to-day operation of our Food Resource Centre. The goal of this program is to improve food security for the people we serve. I run a warehouse, a commercial kitchen, and an urban farm project. I also supervise three full-time staff and a crew of up to 20 volunteers. I work with provincial and national donors to rescue transport loads of food that can’t be sold. We redistribute this food to 45 community social service organizations.

I work on committees that promote and influence social change. Some of this work is to support those experiencing the negative impacts of poverty. I am trained in Safe Food Handling and as a Forklift Operator. I’m the Health and Safety representative for my workplace and am a trained Master Preserver from the University of Guelph.

To do my work, I depend on a team of skilled and knowledgeable employees. We also rely on some core volunteers. Our clients come from a variety of backgrounds. As a result, we connect with language interpreters to make our programs accessible.

My career path is

I began my post-secondary career with a plan of teaching in high school or working in the Arts. However, life changes and gives you experiences and challenges. I found myself nearly homeless and hungry on more than one occasion. I taught myself skills that I use at my job every day. Between that and my post-secondary education, it gave me a unique perspective to take on all aspects of my work. It also gave me the empathy to help the people who need a hand. Completing a certificate program in Sustainable Urban Agriculture, provided me with knowledge and skills I use in my current role. 

I am motivated by

The main motivation for my work is a fundamental anger with the injustice of those who are trapped in the cycles of poverty. For me, the most exciting and fulfilling aspects of my career is getting good food into the bellies of hungry people. We are working hard to change the system that traps so many.

How I affect peoples’ lives

My work is very important. In my job, social services, advocacy, food, and agriculture come together. This union forms the basis for our work towards poverty reduction. We work to provide a place where people can empower themselves. We do this by offering socialization, networking, and skills development. To date, we have provided nearly one million meals across our community. We continue to uplift those in need.

Outside of work I

I enjoy a wide variety of activities but I’m most happy and relaxed when I can create things. I engage in a variety of fiber arts from knitting to felting to dying and spinning wool.

My advice to others

To work in a poverty reduction program, it is important to understand the complex nature of poverty before trying to develop strategies focused on one area. Poverty is a devious beast! There are deep and complex connections involving race, age, gender as well as economic and other social factors. As a result, things are rarely explained away with one solution.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Drama
  • Foreign Languages
  • Geography
  • History
  • Literature and Language Arts
  • Math
  • Home Economics/Family Studies
  • Foods & Nutrition
  • Industrial Arts
  • Science
  • Philosophy
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Liked helping people
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wanted to be in charge
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked being given specific instructions
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Liked reading
  • Was really creative
  • Felt great satisfaction in getting good grades
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things
  • Engaged in activities such as fishing and berry picking
  • Learned best "by doing"

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