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Health Food Institute 2023 Training Awards

These awards, recently announced, highlight the foundation principles of health food retailing

Knowledge is power and having trained and knowledgeable staff gives health food stores the power to be confident in advising customers. We should recognise the dedication of our winners as their commitment to training and learning is inspiring. I am, along with all members of the Institute's General Council, delighted to congratulate each recipient and wish them well as their careers progress.
John Frisby, HFI Chairman

Ian Martin Student Of The Year Award

Winner: Alexandra McKeary of Hansa Wholefoods, Guernsey

This award is presented by Health Stores UK in memory of Ian H. Martin who for many years was Director of the NAHS and Secretary of Health Stores Wholesale and was a significant contributor to the early development of the health food trade. It is awarded to the Health Stores UK Candidate who achieved the highest marks in Part One of the HFI Professional Diploma Course. The prize is a cheque for £100 and a signed Certificate as a permanent record of her success.

Alex was born and grew up in Austria. After leaving school she studied pharmacy but soon discovered that this was not for her. She moved to Guernsey in 2008, falling in love with the sea, the island's beauty and the friendly people.

Health, wellbeing and improving quality of life have always interested her and she was very pleased to find her feet in the health food industry. She has worked at Hansa Wholefood for over a decade and is thrilled to win this award.

The things she loves most about her job is assisting people in making the right choices to improve their health, and learning something new every day. She also loves to hear people's stories of how they've managed to turn their life and their health around through diet and nutrition.

Alex says her colleagues "are awesome and super funny and it's really great having a laugh with them while tidying shelves and unpacking boxes".

She has two daughters aged 9 and 11 and her hobbies are sea swimming, cycling and jogging with her dog.

Jimmy Lee Richardson Award

Winner: Fiona Coates of Licorice Health Foods, Portumna, Co. Galway

Presented by the HFMA in honour of Jimmy Lee Richardson whose perception and energy in the 1960s immensely increased public awareness of natural health products. It is awarded annually to the person who achieved the highest mark in the HFI Professional Diploma Course Part Two, in Ireland and the UK. The prize is a cheque for £300 from the HFMA and a signed Certificate.

Fiona loves her job at Licorice Health Foods in Portumna where she has worked for nearly seven years and is delighted to receive the Jimmy Lee Richardson Award. "Sincere thanks to [store owner] Lorin Taylor for sponsoring my training journey, and to Alison [Collingwood] from the HFI for her unwavering support throughout the course."

Having embraced a wholefood plant-based lifestyle for over four decades, Fiona's journey began with a severe allergic reaction to medication, leading to ulcerative colitis. She successfully healed herself through significant dietary changes and the use of herbal remedies. This transformative experience ignited her passion for exploring the healing potential of plants, prompting her to pursue studies in medical herbalism after transitioning from a career as a chef/manager.

During her leisure time, Fiona finds great fulfilment in gardening and actively participates in a local community garden project that promotes biodiversity by introducing native plants. Additionally, she regularly attends yoga classes and aspires to pursue further learning within the health food industry, recognising that every day presents an opportunity for personal development.

Roger Lane/HFMA Scholarship Award

Winner: Ann-Marie Holdsworth of The Good Life, Wetherby

Presented by the Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA) to the HFMA/Roger Lane Scholarship student who achieved the top mark over the past year in the online HFI Diploma Part One. This Award recognises the passionate commitment of the HFMA and Roger Lane to the importance of well-trained and knowledgeable retailers in the natural products industry. Her prize is a cheque for £200 from the HFMA and a signed Certificate.

Ann-Marie has been working at The Good Life for almost 10 years, having started part-time while she was having a break from the corporate world of sales, marketing and purchasing in the paper industry. She also works part time for a local business that has created a range of innovative wellness drinks.

She co-manages the shop with the store owner, Joanne Derry. "Joanne is fantastic to work for and she continually supports and guides the staff, sharing her vast knowledge and experience," she says. Together, they arrange regular supplier training for everyone.

The Good Life has been trading for over 20 years offering a huge product range, and a refill service which is growing in popularity, helping customers to reduce their impact on the environment.

Both Ann-Marie and Joanne know that training is important for many reasons, from a personal perspective to continually learn and grow, for the shop where it gives customers confidence and for the health food industry in that they are doing their jobs safely and consistently.

Ann-Marie, who is also a qualified massage therapist, has participated in a number of suppler training courses as well as doing online courses. She enjoys the interaction with customers and being able to listen, help and support them on their journey to reaching their health goals.

"The shop has a lovely and loyal customer base and getting positive feedback from customers makes my job feel so worthwhile," she says. She is particularly interested in the importance of gut health and hormone balance, having experienced a number of hormone imbalances herself.

She enjoys life with her husband, daughter and "slightly naughty" Cocker Spaniel. She practices yoga regularly and loves long walks with her family and friends up hill and down dale and sets herself an annual challenge, last year walking the three Yorkshire peaks. She's now in training for a 3.8 km open water swim!

Ann-Marie Holdsworth (with Diploma and Scholarship certificates) is pictured with her employer Joanne Derry.

The Teddie Marston Award

Winner: Valentina Kolaric previously of Evergreen Healthfoods, Galway

(Valentina left Evergreen because a family member was ill and she had to leave to look after them)

Presented by the HFI to the Diploma Part Two candidate who has shown exceptional understanding of the principles and core values of health food and natural healing. The award honours the memory of Teddie Marston who for many years gave wholehearted help and support in promoting the health food industry. The prize is a cheque for £150 and a signed Certificate.

Valentina's passion for food led her to a career in the health food industry. She thinks of food "as a tool to make ourselves feel better and as a fuel that keeps us going" – and it all started at a young age when she and her siblings helped their father with his vegetable garden. She says that participating in nurturing those plants all the way from little seeds to finally eating them was a real joy.

This experience led her to study to be a Nutritional Technician in high school and to ultimately work in a health food shop. In school, she learned all about how food works in the body and how it can be used to our benefit. Combining that knowledge with the training programme she received at Evergreen showed her that by eating a varied diet and accompanying it with needed supplements, we can have a profound impact on our overall wellbeing.

She worked at Evergreen for four years but had to leave to look after her family when one of them fell ill. She says that, considering the background she had, she thought she had a good amount of knowledge, but the training at Evergreen was "on another level".

By providing weekly training sessions, Evergreen equipped the staff to be confident in their knowledge, and as a result the customers felt reassured to know that they were receiving the best possible advice. She believes that Evergreen's training philosophy has been essential to the success that Evergreen has seen over the years.

The area that interests her the most is digestive health and the gut-brain connection. Discovering the huge impact that digestive health has on mood, energy, and mental performance was an eye-opener and helped her overcome her own digestive health problems, too. Currently, she is researching glucose and insulin sensitivity, and finds this area of study very intriguing.

In her spare time, Valentina loves to travel, working out and hiking. Her other hobby is baking, and she enjoys creating delicious desserts for family and friends. She says that this is another part of her life where her knowledge of food comes in handy because she can prepare desserts that are not only delicious but good for the body as well.

To find out more about HFI training, call 0115 9234 534 or 07582 134470, email [email protected]

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