R&I efforts to protect healthcare workers recognized

With files from InsideNC 

Niagara College has received commendation from the Niagara Region for its role in assisting the community this past year during the pandemic. Award of Merit certificates were recently presented to the College in honour of Research & Innovation’s exemplary support of healthcare workers through the manufacturing and donation of face shields, and for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute’s Feed the Community initiative. 

The recognition is part of the Region’s Niagara Impact Awards, which recognize individuals, non-profit organizations and private sector businesses for their efforts in improving the quality of life of those living in Niagara. Learn more about how College students, staff and faculty are making a difference. 


An Award of Merit recognized Research & Innovation’s support of healthcare workers over the past year through the manufacturing and donation of more than 17,300 face shields to Niagara Health. 

“Your ability to pivot, design and manufacture these much-needed shields as well as your generosity in donating those to most in need is outstanding,” states the Award of Merit signed by Niagara Region chair Jim Bradley. 

In 2020, research at the College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) produced 37,300 face shields, certified by Health Canada with a Medical Device Establishment Licence (MDEL Class 1). WAMIC distributed 17,300 face shields to the local Niagara Health System for front-line workers, and the rest were donated to other essential workers and community members throughout the province. 

The WAMIC research team used computer-aided design to create the face shield prototype and then partnered with a local industry partner, Niagara-based Jay-Line, for its die-cutting services to accelerate the number of plastic visors pressed. 

“It’s a priority for us at Niagara College to respond to the needs of our community,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice president, Research and External Relations. “We are proud to leverage our spirit of innovation to help support those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Niagara Health expressed its gratitude for the College’s efforts. 

“The Research & Innovation division at Niagara College provided invaluable services at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when PPE inventories were running low, and the supply chains were disrupted,” said Amir Gill, director, Capital Planning, Engineering Services, and Biomedical Engineering, Niagara Health, “The Niagara College team stepped in and started to locally manufacture and supply us with face shields. They continued to send us a daily supply until the supply chains were re-established.” 

The project was funded by the Niagara College-led Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) through Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) contributions. 



At the College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI), the Feed the Community program was launched during the Winter 2021 term. The initiative aimed to address food insecurity and to support health and wellness in the community and within the College’s student population.  

Each week, 300 fresh healthy meals were prepared at the CFWI and transported to different shelters on a rotating basis. Some meals were also provided to students living in on-campus residences. 

The meals were prepared, cooked and packaged by participating chefs and student volunteers from the Culinary Management program who used top quality products from supplies in the kitchen labs. The team then connected with shelters to transport all the meals each week to those who needed them. 

The initiative was spearheaded by chef professor Olaf Mertens with leadership from the CFWI’s former associate dean Gary Torraville (director, International). Chefs Dan Leblanc and Tom Liu joined the effort along with four second-year Culinary Management students who volunteered to get involved. Full health and safety measures were followed, noted CFWI dean Craig Youdale. 

“I am immensely proud of our team and their continued support of the Niagara community,” said Youdale. “The Niagara Impact Award of Merit is really special to our staff because it will bring some light to the important issue of food insecurity and also inspire more of our team to join the effort.”