“Canada is food and the world is richer for it.” – Anita Stewart, founder Food Day Canada

On August 5, 2023, the nation is celebrating Food Day Canada—a day of appreciation for the bounty of Canadian produce and the people who produce it! Although Food Day Canada has been observed for 20 years, this year marks the first iteration of the event as a nationally recognized day of celebration.

It’s no coincidence that Food Day Canada falls on the August long weekend, which sees families and friends come together to revel in the last weeks of summer. In honour of Food Day Canada, why not pledge to buy, cook, and eat Canadian this holiday long weekend?
Food Day Canada was founded by the late Anita Stewart (1947-2020), a food journalist, activist, historian, radio personality, and Food Laureate at the University of Guelph (appointed 2012). In 2003, Stewart held “The World’s Longest BBQ” to celebrate and support Canada’s beef producers after an outbreak of mad cow diseases (BSE) rocked the industry.

What began as a one-time grassroots event, expanded to become an annual event celebrating the wider Canadian food industry, as well as a registered non-profit organization under the same name, Food Day Canada. 

Food Day Canada’s values include celebrating Canadian-made foods and beverages, and the Canadians who farm and manufacture them. The organization also supports research and education surrounding Canada’s food cultures, fostering sustainable food practices and food security, and promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion in the industry.

The organization’s website aims to make shopping and dining Canadian easier by featuring a variety of recipes that call for Canadian produce, and an interactive map and list showcasing restaurants, markets, and venues that will be observing Food Day Canada with special menus and activities. You will find London’s own Abruzzi restaurant featured there!

Canadians are also welcomed to show their support of the Canadian Food industry, by pledging “to support Food Day Canada and shine a light on Canadian food and farming.” Pledge as a ‘proud Canadian’ or as a farmer, food-related organisation, restaurant, or retailer. Organisations or businesses that pledge their support are recognized as ‘Food Day Canada pledge partners’ and may use the Food Day Canada logo and brand in their promotions for their August 5th events. Finally, you can make your support for Canadian food known using the #FoodDayCanada hashtag this long weekend, and tagging @FoodDayCanada in posts celebrating the national food scene and the people who make it possible.

Food Day Canada comes along at a time of widespread uncertainty in international food markets, which together with economic inflation, is pushing up grocery costs and making it harder for Canadians to purchase food according to their values (such as buying local).

For us at the Middlesex London Food Policy Council, every day is ‘food day.’ As Stewart said, “Canada is food,” and each day represents another opportunity to learn why supporting our local and national food producers is essential to improving the economic condition of this country and its citizens. We hope that the newly, nationally-recognized Food Day Canada will foster the appreciation and conversation needed to make Canadian food a daily and not just annual celebration.

By Siobhan Watters

Empowering Communities through Agriculture: Meet Our Food System Champion Ilana Guslits!

Meet Ilana Guslits, the Garden Programs Coordinator at Growing Chefs! Ontario, and a true inspiration when it comes to supporting our local food system. Ilana manages the learning garden and two greenhouses, providing a great educational experience for students, volunteers, and coworkers alike.
In 2022, Ilana’s Garden Education Program achieved these remarkable milestones:
  • 1000 community boxes delivered
  • 3000 lbs of fresh food harvested
  • 2000 lbs of Food Bank donations rescued from the landfill
  • 150 hours of therapeutic farming and job skills training provided
  • +5000 participants and volunteers involved in job skills training lead by Ilana
Originally from London, Ilana returned in 2019 to be closer to her family and raise her daughter. With over 8 years of experience in agriculture, spanning both rural and urban settings, she seamlessly combines her passion for growing beautiful food with her love for community work as the Garden Program Coordinator. From leading school field trips through the Learning Gardens to harvesting fresh produce for families in need, Ilana embraces the opportunity to get her hands dirty while educating everyone about the significance of local food.
One project that truly ignites Ilana’s passion is the community food box program. This initiative cultivates culturally-relevant crops for bi-weekly harvest, reaching out to families in need, especially newcomers. Now in its second year, Ilana envisions expanding this program by transforming more underutilized urban spaces into productive gardens. By doing so, she aims to foster agricultural education and employment opportunities in our urban centre, empowering individuals who seldom see themselves represented as leaders in our food system’s production stages.
Ilana Guslits, with her endless commitment and passion, is a true Food System Champion. Let’s celebrate her remarkable work and continue to grow a sustainable and green future together.

Growing Together: Meet Our Young Food System Champions, John and Evelyn!

Introducing John (9) and Evelyn (3), our local food heroes!
These amazing siblings have taken an active role in learning and tending to their own vegetable garden. They not only appreciate the effort and ecosystem of our food chain, but also share their knowledge with the neighborhood.
Their family tradition of growing food has brought them together and allows everyone in their family to participate. Evelyn likes to plant seeds; she says her favourites are “corn and raspberries because I like to make raspberries for Johnny, and I like to eat corn!” John says “my family taught me to grow things, and I love to eat beans I can pick right off the plant!”
Their impact goes beyond their own garden; John and Evelyn love to give back to the community. They set up a stand at their driveway, offering veggies for donations that support local charities. They also deliver fresh produce and homemade seed bombs to their neighbors, spreading generosity and kindness.

Evelyn dreams of expanding their garden to include broccoli and basil, while John has become knowledgeable about plant care and growth duration. Their efforts are making a big difference in our community!

Making a Difference: Meet Our Food System Champion, Quarter Master!

Quarter Master is a local sustainable food store that actively searches for local and sustainable food options while emphasizing biodegradable packaging and safe environmental practices. Founded in 1981 by Betty and Eric MacMillan, Quarter Master was established with the aim of providing Londoners with healthy diet options and nutritional information. Over the years, the store has undergone significant growth, and today, it is operated by their son, Tim MacMillan, who has expanded the store to offer a diverse range of grocery options, supplements, and herbal products.

Quarter Master has always prioritized supporting the Canadian organics market due to its numerous health and environmental benefits. The store strives to source a substantial portion of its products locally, especially within the produce and grocery sections. In recent years, Quarter Master has made a concentrated effort to implement sustainable practices within its operations. This includes transitioning to biodegradable and compostable packaging options, investing in backyard composting to manage kitchen and fresh produce scraps, and minimizing food waste by utilizing leftover and past-prime produce in freshly made take-out items.

Apart from its commitment to sustainable practices, QM actively participates in supporting the Wortley Village community through various events. However, the store is excited about future opportunities to expand its involvement beyond its familiar Old South home. Quarter Master’s primary focus at present is to ensure that its in-store practices serve to create a positive impact on the health of its customers, the community, and the planet!

Fueling Progress: Meet Our Food System Champions, Eat OA! X Anderson Craft Ales!

With a strong commitment to supporting local producers and small businesses within their city, the team at EatOA! And Anderson Craft Ales aim to showcase the amazing products offered by their community while raising awareness among their customer base.

Recognizing the limitations of their small kitchen, they reached out to local bakeries establishing strong partnerships with them. Additionally, they place a strong emphasis on using local produce by incorporating produce from vendors such as Slegers Greens, Common Ground, and Sun Gold Organic into their offerings. Their commitment to supporting the local food ecosystem is evident in their menus, where they highlight their vendors.

The team also goes above and beyond to champion local businesses and community initiatives. They actively participate in community projects and programs, such as Growing Chefs pizza night, where they contribute their expertise and resources to promote a sustainable food culture. They also support those in need and minimise food waste by donating any leftover products to Ark Aid mission.

Looking ahead, they plan to continue to maintain their emphasis on sourcing locally. They understand the value of supporting the community and believe that sourcing within the city and its surrounding areas not only benefits EatOA!, but the London community as well.

Fostering Change: Meet our Food System Champion, ATN Access Inc.

Meet ATN Access—a non-profit based in London, Ontario committed to empowering individuals through technology and skills development. They advocate for inclusive environments, prioritising adaptability, and believing in the intrinsic value and unique strengths of each individual, a philosophy which is deeply embedded in all their work.

As a recipient of the Food Systems Champion award, the organization is dedicated to improving food security and fostering community wellness, with particular attention to serving individuals with disabilities.

Furthermore, ATN Access strives to effect positive social change by integrating job-related and wellness-related skills into their food system initiatives. By providing individuals with the tools and resources to develop essential culinary skills, they create opportunities for personal growth and empowerment, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive society.

One of their initiatives is the “grow-your-own” greenhouse project, a program that embodies ATN Access’s core value of adaptability. This initiative is about more than just gardening—it seamlessly integrates education on food nutrition and literacy into their programs, leading to positive change and healthier lifestyle choices. Moreover, the initiative empowers members of the community by providing the necessary resources to start their own herb and vegetable gardens at home, provided free of charge.

ATN Access further demonstrates their commitment to inclusivity through their wellness-oriented “Be Well” program and plans to expand their “Adaptive Cooking” program. Their philosophy—emphasizing the importance of the work process alongside the outcome—reflects their dedication to fostering a healthier, more inclusive society. ATN’s impactful contributions to the local food system underline their well-earned recognition as a Food Systems Champion.

Leading the Way: Meet our Food System Champion, Keisha Joseph!

Keisha Joseph, a dedicated member of both the MLFPC and the London community, has made significant contributions in the field of nutrition and community-based work. After graduating from Brescia University College with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, Keisha realized her passion for helping people directly and engaging in community-based initiatives.

Keisha found the perfect opportunity to use her knowledge and skills when she came across a job posting for her current role as a Food Program Facilitator at Indwell. Indwell is a subsidized and supportive housing charity that provides housing and support for vulnerable populations, such as those who have experienced homelessness or are living in precarious housing situations, and who may have severe mental health disabilities or substance abuse disorders.

In her role as a Food Program Facilitator, Keisha works closely with the Indwell community to improve food security and food literacy among low-income tenants, making her a shaper of the food system. She facilitates food programs and supports individuals in accessing nutritious meals, thereby addressing the issue of food insecurity within the community.

Keisha is committed to continuous learning and recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done in the field of food security and support. She believes that additional support can be provided and different levels of education can be implemented to address the diverse needs of individuals. Keisha aspires to establish new and more concrete systems for effectively providing food assistance, and also aims to deepen her knowledge in the field of public health.

Keisha Joseph’s dedication to improving food security and her efforts to support vulnerable populations through her work at Indwell demonstrate her commitment to creating a more equitable and sustainable food system in the London community, making her a Food Systems Champion!

Know Your Food: Janan Dean of Proof Line Farm

To celebrate Local Food Week 2023, we thought it would be great to highlight local food producers who participated in our Know Your Food event last fall. For a summary of the event, see our previous blog post!

Proof Line Farm is co-owned by Janan Dean, alongside her husband Steve McNaughten and brother-in-law, Mike McNaughten. In operation as far back as 1850, the family farm produces and sells dairy products, beef, eggs, honey, and more.

Although Janan did not grow up farming or raising animals, it is clear that she has embraced her role as Co-Owner and Head of Marketing at Proof Line Farm with passion.

With a background in social work, working in non-profit organizations, and provincial politics, Janan’s focus is also on fostering better connections between rural agriculture and the larger food system, understanding the colonial history of her farm and the land surrounding it, and food literacy. She is, after all, the current Chair of the MLFPC Executive Committee! 

Given Janan’s fervour for the food system, it was a surprise to hear that she and her husband really had no desire to take over the family farm–at first. But a year of travel, culminating in a live-work experience at a micro-dairy outside of Melbourne in Australia, inspired the couple to invest themselves and new ideas in Proof Line Farm.

They were inspired by the micro-dairying process and the ways that small batch production could respond to local needs in more sustainable ways. Janan, Mike, and Steve are now “guiding the vision for the next stage of the farm.”

Janan and her family balance an operation including 50 Holstein dairying cows, a small set of Angus-cross beef cows, 50 ISA red hens, sweet corn and field corn crops, and rotations of wheat and soybeans. This balance is made possible, in part, because of their recently installed robotic milking operation, where cows learn to milk themselves(!), and the family’s labour can be turned to other new initiatives. 

Sustainability is central to Proof Line Farm’s vision. This is already being realized in practices such as growing 85% of its own animal feed, moving to low-till methods of cultivation that promote better soil health, and in the symbiotic pairing of hens and cows on the farm. These animals must, in fact, be kept separate for bio-security reasons, but as they are rotated around the farm pastures, hens peck at the fertilizer the cows leave behind, eating the bugs that pester the cows. Future goals include investing in a bio-digester, which captures methane and converts it into usable energy, which could be recycled on-farm. Janan also spoke of wanting to fully close the loop of dairy production. This would include turning byproducts like whey (9 lbs of which are produced for every 1 lb of cheese) into new consumer products rather than using it in animal feed or, worse, throwing it away as is common industry practice.

As it grows and innovates, Proof Line Farm is becoming a notable example of community stewardship and local food advocacy. As its lead farmer, Mike is enthusiastic about the care and welfare of their animals and shares this enthusiasm with the community by offering tours to local youth groups, girl guides, and scouts. Farm tours have also been available on Saturdays, when Proof Line Farms opens its farm stand to sell their beef, corn, and other produce. Through the week, however, Proof Line Farm shows their faith in community with their self-serve “Honesty Wagon.” Here, customers can purchase fresh eggs with cash, E-transfer, or a QR code posted on the unattended cart. Eggs, says Janan, are the “hot item at the farm.” 

Finally, despite many challenges with permitting during the pandemic, Janan and her family have been planning the construction of an on-site creamery and permanent farm store, which would also provide a space for agricultural education programs. At Know Your Food last year, Janan expressed her hope that Proof Line Farm would see its new facilities built in Summer 2023 and, indeed, their website reports that their farm market building will open this August! 

Until the new farm store is operational, the online shop for Proof Line Farm is closed. However, you can celebrate Local Food Week by visiting their Honesty Wagon any day of the week for fresh eggs, jams, and honey! We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this innovative operation.

Know Your Food: Phillip Crunican of Crunican Orchards

To celebrate Local Food Week 2023, we thought it would be great to highlight local food producers who participated in our Know Your Food event last fall. For a summary of the event, see our previous blog post

Panelist and Apple Farmer Phillip Crunican arrived at Know Your Food with over 100 years farming experience in his genes.

While apples are the main product of the Crunican farm now, it was once a full-farm operation, with field crops and livestock. In 1910, Phillip’s grandfather planted their first apple trees on five acres of land. Before introducing motorized machinery in the 1950s, crops were sprayed and produce was transported by horse-drawn carts.

Apples and other produce were sold out of the Crunican farmhouse and barn. A sign told customers to “Blow your horn” when they drove up to receive service from the house. The farm shop, built in 1950, is still operating today and is home not only to Crunican Orchards’ direct sale of apples, but also offers a variety of items from other local producers, such as Bacon Acres Farm, Filsinger’s Organic Foods, and Ferguson Apiaries, to name just a few.

Under the care of Phillip and his family, the orchard has grown to produce almost twenty varieties of apple. While his grandfather originally planted 20 trees to an acre, the Crunicans now plant 400 trees to an acre. This is still a low-density rate of planting compared to other orchards who may plant up to 2,000 trees per acre.

In his talk, Phillip observed that “the industry is certainly changing a lot since my grandpa first started planting trees.” Instead of closing the farm shop each summer, the use of new controlled atmosphere storage technology means that their apples can be sold to customers year-round. This means the shop continues to support fellow producers by carrying their products year-round, too.

Even with the expansion of the farm and use of new technologies, some things remain the same at Crunican Orchards. For instance, each apple is hand-picked and hand-graded by a local workforce before being packaged for sale.

At the opening of Know Your Food, speaker Ray John asked the audience to look at their hands, and to think about and appreciate the hands that grow our food. Phillip and his family could not be more hands-on in feeding their local customers and the wider community, both with apples and by sharing space with other food businesses. With that level of care, it’s no surprise that Crunican Orchards remained a trusted source of produce throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which proved to be the busiest years for the farm store so far. 

This Local Food Week, head to Crunican Orchards for a honeycrisp apple, the farm’s most sought-after variety. Or how about a russet apple, a variety first propagated over 300 years ago and still popular today?

“Come & Crunch!” says the farm’s website and, we say, go and appreciate Crunican Orchards’ century-plus-long tradition of family farming and community stewardship!

Written by Siobhan Watters

Now Online! Know Your Food: Grow, Eat, Understand

The Middlesex London Food Policy Council (MLFPC) is pleased to inform you that the video recording of our “Know Your Food” event is now online!

The day proved to be enlightening for our presenters and over 100 in-person and online attendees. Read on for a summary of the event including points of interest that emerged during the discussions.

Stay tuned! We will be posting more detailed blogs about the event’s panels in the coming months.


On November 5th, 2022, MLFPC welcomed representatives from the agrifood sector, food literacy advocates, and the public to The Grove at Western Fair for a day-long event to explore and exchange ideas about the food system.

The event featured an array of guest speakers and panels addressing three key themes of food literacy: GROW, EAT, UNDERSTAND.

Ray John of the Oneida Nation, a Knowledge Sharer and Cultural Advisor to the London Catholic School Board, set the tone for the event. He asked us to think about and be thankful for the food we eat and the many hands that put their energy into producing and distributing it for the people of Middlesex-London. Our food is the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who work in agri-business in the area.

As moderator Lella Bloomer observed, agri-food accounts for more than 1/4 of all businesses in Middlesex County and has a $1.2 bill annual impact, with 7,800 jobs and $290 million in wages and salaries.

The themes GROW, EAT, UNDERSTAND allowed presenters and audience participants to examine the breadth of the food system, exploring developments and challenges in agri-food production and processing; food distribution and retailing; urban agriculture and local food markets; food access and education; as well as raising difficult questions about sustainability and those underserved by our current food system.

The recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising energy costs, along with rising food prices, emerged as important concerns during the event, as did the continuing legacy of colonialism and colonial food practices on the traditional Indigenous lands of the county.

While food systems and politics have become increasingly global in scope, the event was a rare opportunity to engage with stakeholders and issues directly linked to Middlesex-London—one we hope to repeat in the future!

“Know Your Food” would not have been possible without the work of MLFPC members and volunteers who put the event together over the course of eight months, with funding provided by the London Community Recovery Network.

The other essential ingredients for the event were the space and resources provided by The Grove and Growing Chefs! Ontario. The Grove is located at the Western Fair District in a facility once earmarked for demolition, but which has now become an agri-business hub and incubator. Growing Chefs! Ontario is one of many organisations that make their home there. Not only did Andrew Fleet, Executive Director of Growing Chefs!, deliver a compelling talk about the importance of food access and literacy for youth and their families; the organization also provided a nutritious lunch for participants and guests. It featured traditional Indigenous and locally-produced foods, including bison chili, kale salad, and apple crisp.

We are so grateful to everyone who helped make this event a success and for the collaborative spirit fostered at The Grove by our moderators, panellists, and attendees!

What’s Next?

“Know Your Food” was a unique event, exploring important issues and asking important questions about food literacy.

One of the most challenging questions was: how can we honour and continue to pursue reconciliation with the traditional Indigenous peoples of this land through our food system?

We must continue to ask ourselves and our regional governments these challenging questions. We hope the MLFPC will be a driver of conversations and action that make our food system resilient, sustainable, and inclusive for everyone.

The MLFPC’s goal is to foster connections and knowledge exchange among stakeholders of the local food system. We want you to know your food system and to become invested in it.

The event featured several volunteer-run organisations that could use your time and support, including Growing Chefs! Ontario, Urban Roots London, and the MLFPC itself!

Written by Siobhan Watters