Food Day Canada, founded by the late Anita Stewart, former University of Guelph food laureate, commemorates its 20th anniversary this year, celebrating Canadian-grown food and recognizing those who contribute to this country’s agriculture, food and cuisine.

Anita Stewart holds a platter of strawberries in a kitchen
Anita Stewart

This year marks the first time the Government of Canada is officially recognizing Food Day Canada on the national calendar Aug. 5, honouring the work of farmers, fishers, chefs, researchers and home cooks across the food system.

U of G will kick off its month-long celebration on July 11 with a sold-out event at the Arboretum that includes a chef cook-off, a marketplace of U of G food businesses, and exhibits highlighting U of G food-related research and activities.

The event will be hosted in partnership with Arrell Food Institute, the Ontario Agricultural College, the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management at the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics.

It was July 11, 2003, when Anita Stewart organized “The World’s Longest Barbecue” in a show of support for Canada’s beef farmers struggling with the U.S. border closure during the “mad cow disease” or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), outbreak that year.

Two decades later, the one-time gesture of support has evolved into an annual celebration of Canadian cuisine and a point of pride for U of G, an integral partner and “Canada’s food university.”

Stewart, a cookbook author, culinary historian and passionate supporter of Canadian agriculture, was appointed U of G’s inaugural food laureate in 2012, the first at any university. Following her death in 2020, the University established the Anita Stewart Tribute Fund to advance her contributions and work as its food ambassador.

In 2021, the Anita Stewart Memorial Food Laboratory opened in the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management.

Ontario Agricultural College a leader in food culture

Dr. Rene Van Acker, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), worked with Stewart during her time with U of G and says the fundamental lessons she taught about food and culture resonate deeply today.

“Anita really wanted Canadians to see and celebrate their food culture, which is distinct and diverse,” Van Acker says.

“She was always very clear that it was rooted in the uniqueness of so many Canadian ingredients and always lauded OAC because of its direct involvement with producing and owning ingredients like Guelph Millennium asparagus, Yukon Gold potatoes and the dry bean breeding program.

Stewart encouraged OAC to see itself as a leader not only in food science, agriculture and economy but in food culture as well, he said.

“Anita showed us that Canada continues to mature as a nation,” Van Acker adds. “I think she did significant service to the identity of Canada through her work.”

Food is a universal topic connecting humans, all of whom appreciate good, high-quality food produced in a sustainable way, with care for animals, he says.

He said U of G is proud to honour the achievements of Canada’s food community, including Stewart’s legacy, while encouraging people to think about food beyond its nutritional value to the vital role it plays in identity and enriching life for everyone.


Rebecca Gordon
School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management

In celebration of Food Day Canada on Aug. 5, the University of Guelph is shining a light on all the ways we are supporting and improving Canada’s food systems Visit U of G’s Food Day Canada page to learn more.