Food activist and U of G honorary degree recipient Anita Stewart.

What are you going to eat on July 30? Whether it’s salmon from British Columbia or potatoes from Prince Edward Island, Food Day Canada founder Anita Stewart wants you to eat food that was grown, produced or raised in Canada. You don’t need to be an award-winning chef to celebrate Canadian cuisine. Just pick up some local food at the grocery store or farmer’s market. You can even eat at a restaurant that serves dishes made with local ingredients.

“The goal is to create a day to celebrate the fact that we’ve got extraordinary ingredients and tremendous culinary talent on all levels,” says Stewart, author of 14 books, including Anita Stewart’s Canada: The Food, The Recipes, The Stories. She also received an honorary degree from the College of Management and Economics during this year’s spring convocation.

As Canada’s food university, U of G’s partnership with Food Day Canada was a perfect fit, says Stewart. The University has been involved with Food Day Canada since it began in 2003 with “the world’s longest barbecue,” a response to the mad cow disease crisis that struck Alberta cattle farmers.

Stewart encouraged her friends in the food industry to “cook Canadian beef.” What started out as a simple gesture of support for the beef industry evolved into a nationwide celebration of Canadian food. “It went viral,” she says. In a few days, her inbox was clogged with emails from across the country and the event soon captured media interest.

Stewart’s son Brad suggested getting restaurants involved. “The uptake was fantastic,” says Stewart. “No one said no.”

The number of restaurants participating in Food Day Canada this year doubled to almost 300.

Last year, the University of Guelph launched the Good Food Innovation Awards, which were presented to three Canadian restaurants. The awards recognize restaurants that demonstrate culinary creativity using local ingredients.

Restaurant DNA in Montreal won gold for its dishes that blend tradition with innovation, using local meats and sustainably grown produce. The restaurant’s partners, Derek Damman and Alex Cruz, will tour U of G’s labs and research stations this fall.

“We serve food from people we can keep in touch with on a regular basis,” says Cruz. “It is also a logical and simple way of thinking. Somewhere along the way, we maybe got lost and felt that it was more important to spend our money importing products that we maybe thought were better instead of investing our money in our land.”

The silver award went to chef Nancy Hinton of Les Jardins Sauvages in Saint-Roch de L’Achigan, Quebec for her use of foraged foods. One of the restaurant’s winning dishes featured northern cold water shrimp served with wild ginger and seaweed. As part of her prize, she met with plant agriculture professor Gopi Paliyath and will work with the Guelph Food Technology Centre to develop her new food products.

St. John’s restaurant Bacalao won the bronze award for a menu that celebrates the culinary traditions of Newfoundland and Labrador. Restaurant owners Andrea Maunder and Mike Barsky will work with Ridgetown Campus tomato breeder Steven Lowen to develop a special Bacalao tomato.

This year’s panel of judges will include Prof. Rene Van Acker, associate dean (external relations) at the Ontario Agricultural College, and Prof. Tanya MacLaurin, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“As part of Canada’s food university, we are pleased to help celebrate this event and reward innovation in food, whether in taste, nutrition or sustainability,” says OAC dean Robert Gordon.

“I am delighted that we are sponsoring Food Day Canada again this year,” adds CME dean Julia Christensen Hughes. “Many of our faculty are actively studying issues that are important to the Canadian food industry — from field to fork — and are committed to helping enhance its effectiveness. As Canadians, we have much to be grateful for, including a delicious, safe and nutritious food supply.”

The President’s Office is also co-sponsoring the event.

Stewart hopes Food Day Canada will encourage Canadians to buy local foods, from apples to zucchini, as much as possible. “If we don’t keep our own farmers in business, who’s going to feed the world?” she asks.

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