A national day celebrating Canadian food, cuisine and the country’s hard-working agricultural producers is happening today, called Food Day Canada.
Derek Johnson, Manitoba’s minister of agriculture, said in a press release that Manitobans should use the day as an opportunity to celebrate the province’s unique and diverse local food.
Johnson said the provincial government is dedicated to engaging consumers and people in the agriculture and agri-food industries to enhance knowledge and stimulate conversations on how Manitobans think about the value of food.
“We encourage all Manitobans to celebrate the amazing diversity of food and cuisine across our province by shopping, cooking and dining on Food Day Canada in Manitoba.”
Johnson also acknowledged the hard-working farmers and producers that make it possible for Manitobans to enjoy great food.
“This long-standing national event presents an opportunity here in Manitoba to connect with consumers and with growers who provide us with fresh, delicious foods, and with chefs, processors, restaurateurs and home cooks who bring good food to life.”
The goal of the day, according to Johnson, is not just to shine a light on Canadian cuisine but to take pride in the province’s food industry.
Jillian Einarson Smith, manager of public engagement with Manitoba Agriculture, told the Sun on Friday that Food Day Canada is all about celebrating Manitoba’s unique and diverse local cuisine, culture and agrifood industry.
“The event is an important recognition to the farmers, the producers and others who work in the industry — restaurateurs, food processors, scientists and researchers … who provide us with safe and sustainable and delicious foods.”
Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, said Food Day is a great way to remind consumers not to take for granted everything that goes into providing them with nourishing food.
“All aspects of the supply chain, be it the producer, be it the people that work in processing, retail — even the person that works at the checkout counter — are all vitally important to ensure that consumers get a product that they can consume with confidence.”
Campbell said Canada has some of the strictest food safety requirements in the world, as well as a governing body that ensures people can feel confident that the food they enjoy is nutritious, healthy, safe and brings prosperity to everyone in Canada.
Providing the highest quality products for consumers is something agriculture producers do not take lightly, Campbell said.
“We do not take our jobs for granted. We do our utmost to provide … raw products for food for Canadians and around the world.”
Campbell is encouraging all Manitobans to take part in Food Day by thinking about the food chain and sampling the delights of local produce and cuisine.
“There are a tremendous amount of Manitoba entrepreneurs that are creating food for Manitobans,” Campbell said. “Inquire where they come from and do some research and due diligence. I encourage you to try Manitoba products.”
Jessica Brady, marketing and communications manager for Heritage Co-op 1997 Ltd., said that by bringing in locally grown and produced foods, the co-op is not only supporting other Manitoba businesses but is providing consumers with fresh, high-quality foods.
Heritage Co-op is active in Brandon as well as six other communities in Westman, including Minnedosa, Rivers and Wawanesa. Brady said it’s that localization that makes the company uniquely positioned to understand what food products are fresh and available in Manitoba and pass it on to their clients.
There is a ripple effect that is in place when customers buy local, and it’s one that Brady said benefits the entire local supply chain and local Westman communities.
“The impact of purchasing a local food item goes beyond our stores, benefitting the business owner, their team, the local businesses that they work with and the communities they operate in.”
Brady said that because Heritage Co-op has a direct link to farming through its agricultural sites, it takes pride in providing food to consumers.
For Chris Warwaruk, co-owner of Farmery Estate Brewery, based 76 kilometres from Brandon in the town of Neepawa, having consumers support local products is of huge importance.
Warwaruk, who is also the vice-chairperson of Food and Beverage Manitoba, said that, especially in the wake of COVID-19, local support for Farmery has been nothing short of phenomenal.
“We saw a big uptake during COVID, and especially after COVID,” Warwaruk said. “It basically showed how vulnerable our supply chains are.”
When stores run low on products, it’s often the local ones that have the most staying power, Warwaruk explained.
Warwaruk also said that COVID-19 made more people aware of where their food is coming from. He’s hopeful this awareness will translate into even more support for local producers and businesses.
“Consumers have a choice to make decisions with their pocket book, and I think … they’re taking advantage of supporting local, supporting with their pocket book and not just talking about it.”
Food Day Canada began in 2003, and has become one of the nation’s largest and longest-running celebrations of the people and products in Canada’s food industry.
As part of today’s celebrations, the dome of the legislative building in Winnipeg will be illuminated in red and white lights until sunrise tomorrow.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun