Meet the Food Allergy Canada staff
Jennifer Gerdts, Executive Director
Jennifer joined Food Allergy Canada in 2014 as a volunteer board member before assuming the position of Executive Director in January 2018. Since joining the organization, Jennifer has been instrumental in crafting the strategic direction that maintains Food Allergy Canada’s foundation in providing medically reviewed education and support for individuals and families living with food allergies while elevating the focus on key advocacy issues.
Jennifer’s interest in food allergies is driven by the experience of raising twin boys who have multiple food allergies. Her sons started school the same year Sabrina’s Law was implemented (2005), Ontario legislation that protects children at risk of anaphylaxis. With this, Jennifer and her family experienced first-hand the benefits of the work of Food Allergy Canada, which advocated for the passing of this legislation.
Having spent 10 years in sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble, and 15 years in consulting, helping large and small North American companies with strategy development, business planning, and organization effectiveness, Jennifer wanted to apply her business skills to help Food Allergy Canada. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary. Learn more about Jennifer by reading her personal introduction.
Ranjit Dhanjal, Vice President, Marketing, Communications & Engagement
Ranjit joined Food Allergy Canada in 2016 with a focus on engaging and growing our supporter base, ensuring families impacted by food allergies know about us and can get the support they need. Her career spans over twenty years in marketing in both the non-profit and profit sectors. She has led global projects with over 70 countries, been instrumental in various coalitions from introducing 10-digit dialling in Ontario to increasing the awareness nationally for humanitarian aid for developing countries, and has been passionately committed to increasing retention and acquisition in each organization she has been involved with. Ranjit has extensive expertise working in all aspects of marketing, including direct marketing, product marketing, branding, internal and external communications, and advertising. Her imagination and passion for others has no bounds, and she continues to explore life with uninhibited exuberance with her son and husband by her side. She graduated from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Marketing.
Joni Huang, Director, Education & Healthcare Initiatives
Joni joined Food Allergy Canada in 2019 to oversee educational programming and drive the healthcare strategy with the goal of increasing the understanding and support of food allergy. Prior to joining the team, she worked with us for more than 10 years to deliver on educational initiatives as a consultant, manage national education programs and services as Director of Programs, and create the children’s newsletter as volunteer editor. She also helped to lead the development of key food allergy and anaphylaxis resources for schools, childcare settings, and the community. Her previous work experience includes marketing positions in the technology and healthcare sectors. She has an MBA from Boston College and a BA in economics from Boston University. Joni also has a personal interest in living well with food allergy – her eldest son has multiple food allergies.
Beatrice Povolo, Director, Advocacy & Media Relations
Beatrice joined Food Allergy Canada in 2007 following her long-standing role as the Chair of the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group. As a parent of a teenager with food allergy, Beatrice understands the issues faced by families and the allergy community in safely managing this condition on a daily basis. Her dedication and passion to help create more supportive and safer environments, continues to inspire her to advocate for this community. Beatrice is the project lead on many allergy-related initiatives at both a local and national level, including food labelling, foodservice, airline travel, government relations and media. As our Director, Advocacy & Media Relations, Beatrice leads many of our advocacy initiatives and liaises with industry, government and healthcare professionals, as well as acts as our media spokesperson. Beatrice has also been actively involved in many of our community awareness initiatives and manages many of our corporate partner relationships. Prior to joining us, she was Director of Marketing and Product Development with Manulife Financial and held various management positions with TD Canada Trust. She graduated from the University of Toronto, with an Honours BA in political science and economics. Beatrice is also an active volunteer in her school community in the Greater Toronto Area, where she lives with her husband and three children.
Alana Elliott, National Project Manager & Community Initiatives
Alana joined Food Allergy Canada in 2022 to oversee the National Comprehensive School Program with the goal of educating our next generation about food allergy, increasing empathy and support for food allergy as a medical condition, increasing the use of anaphylaxis training programs and impacting school policy. As the wife and mother of a family with multiple food allergies, she has advocated for food allergy education and policy for over two decades.
Her previous work experience includes 12 years teaching with Edmonton Public Schools and 20 years as the founder of Libre Naturals, manufacturing snacks and cereals for people with food allergy and celiac disease. Because of this background, Alana will also provide support for Food Allergy Canada’s initiatives with food manufacturers. She is a graduate of the University of Calgary, with a BEd majoring in Elementary Education and currently lives on Vancouver Island.
Tammy White, Office Manager
Tammy became involved with Food Allergy Canada in 2001 as our organization’s first employee. Tammy coordinated the opening of our first office and currently oversees the daily operations of the business, managing the support staff, and working with volunteers nationally. Prior to joining Food Allergy Canada, Tammy worked in the financial sector for 12 years in various managerial positions. She is a graduate of Ryerson Polytechnic University with a certificate in Human Resources Management.
Arianne Kirkey, Marketing Communications Specialist
Arianne has been involved with our organization as the program coordinator of Allergy Pals/Allies since 2016. Since then, she has been an advocate in her community dedicated to helping others live confidently with food allergy. Whenever she sets her mind to something, tenacity and curiosity drive her forward. Her creativity is a true asset in her professional life, benefiting her on many projects such as social media campaigns and RFP pitches.
She is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to living with food allergy. Since the age of three, she has lived with the risk of anaphylaxis to tree-nut, peanut, sesame seed, and, freshwater fish. This and much more have supplied her with endless experiences to share. Her previous work includes leading international marketing initiatives for a race car seat manufacturer as the digital marketing lead, a social media strategist and consultant. She graduated with an honours bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Ottawa, as well as a graduate degree in digital marketing from St. Lawrence College. She currently lives in Ottawa.
Annette Brennan, Member Services
Annette has been involved with Food Allergy Canada from the very beginning. She started as a volunteer speaker in 2001, educating school staffs throughout the York, Peel, Durham, and Toronto Districts. She soon became aware of the need to educate students and developed an educational program for each of the elementary divisions. Thousands of children have been educated about anaphylaxis through this program. She has also assisted with the facilitation of educational programs for childcare supervisors, including one funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. She received recognition at the 2016 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards for 15 years of Service.
At this time Annette worked with us as a consultant until joining the team in 2020. Her passion and experience bring great insight to providing phone and online support to the community- including parents, childcare staff, and educators.
Outside of work, she still volunteers in her community at her church and for Toastmasters. She resides in Aurora with her husband, Brian. They have three grown children, all who have developed various food allergies, the most recent being her daughter who developed a tree nut allergy at the age of 23.