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U of G celebrates local food at Food Day Canada launch event

'Guelph stands for food and great food and all that food does'

The importance of recognizing local and Canadian cuisine sunk its teeth into participants during the University of Guelph Food Day Canada reception.

On Wednesday afternoon, a small crowd gathered on the University of Guelph campus to celebrate the upcoming Food Day Canada on July 30 and sample local food and beverages. During the reception, university leaders, politicians and others also talked about Guelph's local agricultural industry and education programs. 

University president Charlotte Yates, said there isn’t a part of food that the university isn’t the leader, or is going to become the leader in the years ahead.

“Guelph stands for food and great food and all that food does, whether it’s addressing the big issues of food security and insecurity, food equality, new types of food as we move towards thinking about how we create a sustainable planet,” she said.

Food Day Canada was made possible by Anita Stewart, a former Canadian culinary author and activist from Wellington County. Stewart founded Food Day Canada in 2003 and was the first food laureate at the university. 

Yates adds this is a day about celebrating local food, but it is also a celebration in memory of Anita. 

“Her understanding of people is what made this all so successful. It is food, but it was also her incredible passion and love of people and bringing them together,” Yates said about Anita. 

Last year, the university dedicated a teaching culinary studio in honour of her called the Anita Stewart Memorial Food Laboratory. Currently, the studio is used for producing an online informative series called Deep Dish Dialogues that showcases chefs and food experts while talking about food, sustainability and community. Emily Robinson, food education manager at the School of Hospitality, said the program is trying to prepare leaders for the industry.

"We're continuing to prepare for the sustainability of the industry," said Robinson, noting addressing challenges around wellbeing, labour shortages and discussing Indigenous cuisine in Canada.

Jeff Stewart, Anita’s son and a chef, said everybody at the U of G has picked up the torch since his mother passed away, from creating the culinary teaching studio to Deep Dish Dialogues

"The values I talked about, mom's values, I see in action here on campus," said Stewart. "It's not just stuff written on a wall, or words somebody speaks, it's action."

He adds Food Day Canada wants to increase inclusion around food and also promote food security and food sovereignty through supporting local food suppliers.

“With mom, one of the things she was championing with Food Day Canada, is celebrating Canadian ingredients, and celebrating Canadians, and of course, the research and the innovation and the education of Canadians," said Stewart.

To further Anita’s work, Bill S227 was introduced to celebrate farmers, producers, processors and to highlight and appreciate the diverse nutritious food products available in Canada. 

The bill is on track to pass with Royal Ascension by Christmas. Once passed, Food Day Canada will take place on the last Saturday before the first Monday of August. 

Senator Robert Black, who is working on Bill S227 with Perth-Wellington MP John Nater, said the bill builds upon all the work Anita and the Food Day Canada team has done in the past 19 years. 

“Canadians, especially those outside of rural and agricultural communities, have become more interested in where their food comes from,” said Black during the event. “Agriculture is an industry that’s growing and changing every day, and it’s critical that we have the opportunity to observe and admire innovative measures that strengthen and enhance this sector for years to come.”