Passionate about community-centred policy strategies, she joined Power Lab in 2019, where she supports knowledge translation and learning activities to build fair local economies. Concerned with equity focused policy, she worked at Toronto City Hall as a Political Staff in the office of Toronto’s former Poverty Reduction Advocate. As the lead staff on the Poverty Reduction file, she supported a variety of policy initiatives, including the 5-part Tackle Poverty TO public consultations and the launch of the Fare Pass Discount Program for low-income residents. Her previous work in the non-profit sector s panned a variety of areas, including, healthy public policy, public arts, community planning, housing and climate policy.
As Chair of Food Secure Canada and a member of the Toronto Food Policy Council, she has participated in several national and municipal food policy processes, including the development of Canada’s first national food policy. A strong proponent of youth leadership development, she served as Chair of the Toronto Youth Food Policy Council for several years, building the capacity of underrepresented youth to shape municipal policy decisions.
Recently named Canada’s Delegate for the 53rd UN Commission on Population and Development, she successfully shaped Canada’s position on food security and nutrition to prioritize the needs of food workers and Canada’s most food-insecure populations impacted by COVID-19. Melana is also a member of the municipal Food Communities Network Leaders Table, and an Advisor to the Global Agritecture Xchange.
Native to Toronto, she believes the future of Canada depends on building more equitable and inclusive cities, and has used art as a tool to tackle that mission. As a Curator and mentor she has led a number of youth-focused arts initiatives on themes of immigration, Reconciliation, and anti-Black racism to inform policy, including the Ward Museum’s Block By Block and the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Scratch and Mix Arts Exhibition.
Melana also holds leadership positions as Vice Chair of Cycle Toronto, a Director for Carrot Cache, and a proud member of the Toronto Black Food Sovereignty Initiative. A community organizer at heart, she has raised $5-7M annually for education and health initiatives abroad as the Director of Marketing, Media and Communications for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s World Partnership Walk; and has volunteered on community health projects in Guatemala, Guyana and Ecuador throughout her studies. Melana has a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Global Development Studies, with a certificate in International Studies from Queens University, and was the recipient of the Paavo & Aino Lukkari Human Rights Award for her Masters research in Development Studies from York University.