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Blog - Flanagan Foodservice

Ontario Pork Supports Local Restaurants


Ontario pork producers know that supporting local restaurants through these uncertain times is the right thing to do. Whether that support is through ordering delivery/take-out or buying gift cards online, we should all come together to ensure local restaurants have a steady income into the future.

 

This is why they are offering free social media advertising — paid for by the producers — to eligible local restaurants that serve Ontario pork in the province. This Facebook and Instagram ad will target over 5,000 or more customers in their area, and promote that their restaurant has delivery or take-out options.

 

Ontario Pork is offering to support local restaurants with promotion of their business.  Contact jeremy.yim@ontariopork.on.ca for more info.

 

They are talking about an actual paid and targeted ad, not just a normal social media post.

 

Professional digital marketing is an area that many restaurants can’t normally tap into (even in normal circumstances), so they are offering our team to support.

 

All they need from restaurants is a high-quality photo of a pork menu item, and they would do the rest— so you can focus on running the business.

 

Please contact Jeremy Yim, Retail and Food Marketing Specialist at Ontario Pork for more information and to sign-up to the free branding program.

 

Together we support local.

jeremy.yim@ontariopork.on.ca
1-519-766-7893

 

 

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Flanagan Foodservice team at 40th anniversary celebration

The Flanagan story dates back to 1977 when Joe and Dee Flanagan opened Bob’s Surplus Food Outlet in Waterloo, Ontario. The retail store operated out of 5,200 square feet of space with three employees and 500 products.

 

The enterprise quickly evolved into Bob’s Wholesale where dry grocery products were distributed to bakeries and donut shops in the Kitchener-Waterloo area with all deliveries being shipped in the Flanagan family station wagon. Joe Flanagan recognized a need for a full service distribution and set out to expand geographical coverage and diversify the product line. He renamed the company J. and D. Flanagan Sales and Distribution Ltd., and over the next ten years the company dealt with rapid expansion including new vehicles, a new building in Kitchener (1983), and a new branch in Owen Sound. In 1989, the Kitchener branch was moved again to accommodate the growing demand.

 

The '80s also saw the introduction of Joe’s sons to the family business. Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray started working at the company in various positions. The company was renamed Flanagan Foodservice Inc. and again, continued to grow. By this time the company viewed the ability to adapt to serve its customer needs as a skill that has been well-developed over the years.

 

Although many businesses were suffering from a recession in the '90s, the company showed no signs of slowing down. Joe Flanagan told employees that the company “wasn’t taking part in the recession.” A true visionary, he led the company through another decade of growth. Expansions to the Kitchener facility were needed and the Sudbury branch was opened. Fresh seafood, dairy, and new marketing initiatives were introduced that helped propel the company forward.

 

With a strong succession plan in place, Joe appointed his eldest son, Dan, as President in 1998. A gradual hand off of the management responsibilities and consensus among the brothers as to the direction of the business allowed for a seamless transition to the second generation.

 

With the passing of Joe Flanagan in 2000, the company was led by Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray. Each brother was actively involved in the day-to-day management of the company, maintaining the integrity and service that Flanagan Foodservice was built on.  Under their leadership, the next 13 years were another period of growth and advancement for the Flanagan brand.

 

The company acquired Roseland Produce, added another 65,000 square feet to the Kitchener branch, and became HACCP accredited while helping shape the future of food safety in foodservice distribution.  Sustainability initiatives were a focus and the company committed to ensuring they were proactively managing the impact on the environment.   Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray kept the spirit of their father alive while staying true to his core values of service, teamwork and growth.

 

In 2012 the owners embarked on a strategic journey which would shape the future of the company for years to come.  Flanagan Foodservice unveiled a new logo to complement innovative changes to the company vision, mission, values, and tagline. The focus remained on the company strengths and the evolving business environment while always keeping its customers as the top priority.

 

One value that didn’t change was the company’s commitment to the communities it serves. Flanagan’s has always supported many worthwhile charities. The company is actively involved in We Care, Habitat for Humanity, Speroway and many other worthwhile causes. The company has donated over $1 million dollars to We Care over the years and contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars of food annually to worthwhile causes. The company also introduced paid volunteerism in 2016, encouraging employees to support their communities through effort that is compensated with pay.

 

In 2014, Rick, Jeff and Murray retired from the active management of the family business, leaving the oldest brother, Dan, to lead the family entrepreneurship into the future. The brothers remain as Shareholders and Board Advisors and continue to collaborate on various company projects and initiatives.

 

Today, Flanagan Foodservice employs 520 people in 4 branches across Ontario.  The fleet consists of over 80 vehicles delivering foodservice products across Ontario and Southwestern Quebec. As the requirements of customers continue to grow, so does Flanagan’s. Through technical innovation and expansions, foresight and marketing, sales have grown consecutively for 40 years.

 

The future of Flanagan’s continues to be that of a family-owned, independent company that will exhibit the same distinct family values that have defined its identity for 40 years. Flanagan’s is looking to the future with great excitement. The company is in the midst of its largest expansion to date with an 180,000 square foot branch to open in Whitby, Ontario in the fall of 2017. Dan summarizes the strategy for the future: “Our core values of service excellence, teamwork, continuous improvement, inclusive family spirit, and community building through supporting community events, organizations and charities will continue to define what Flanagan’s will stand for in the future.”

 

At the heart of it, the Flanagan story comes down to service. Providing exceptional personal service was at the heart of everything Joe and Dee did while establishing and growing the business. In the second generation, the Flanagan brothers embraced that core value while taking the company to the next level. Today, this combined legacy of service provides the core mandate for the future of the company.

 

“Customer service is the cornerstone of our business,” emphasizes Dan. “It really comes down to all of our people understanding how important each and every customer is, and how they can best serve them to meet their unique needs and help contribute to their success in the foodservice market.”

 

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Flanagan Food Show welcome sign entrance

That’s a wrap!

April 5 and April 26, we held our spring food shows in Kitchener and Sudbury. This annual event gives you the chance to sample new products, network with sales representatives, and experience first-hand the newest trends and industry developments.

 

We’d like to say "thank you" to all who participated and attended. We couldn’t have done it without our fantastic vendors and customers!

 

Flanagan team at Food Show with foodKitchener food show guests, Kitchener food show entrance, ED Foods booth, Flanagan's Our Ontario booth.

 

Guests browsed the exhibits and had their taste buds working overtime sampling new products in foodservice as well as innovative approaches to traditional favourites.

Customers felt that this year’s show was very resource-focused, according to Dave Ball, Division Sales Manager for Flanagan's. “Products complemented current trends, and each booth provided great insight to menu planning,” says Ball. “Vendors didn’t just display their products, they explained how to sell it.”

 

Some of these trending items included the Maplehurst/Weston Bakeries doughnut wall and doughnut pops, as well as Rich’s Foodservice freakshakes.

 

Maplehurst/Weston's unique doughnuts can be customized to specific events, and Rich's crazy shakes are an incredibly popular menu trend. Both are sure to be posted to social media by your customers. (Take it from us—we couldn't resist getting a photo!)

Maplehurst/Weston Bakeries doughnut wall and doughnut pops, Rich's Foodservice freakshakes

From left: Maplehurst/Weston Bakeries doughnut wall and doughnut pops, Rich's Foodservice freakshakes.

 

This year's shows were centre-of-plate focused, featuring premium beef, fresh seafood and custom-cut poultry. As an introduction to our Carve premium Ontario beef brand, a chef greeted customers at the Carve booth with tender and delicious ribeye and striploin steaks.

 

“There was high interest in Flanagan’s protein products,” Ball continues, “most notably our new premium Ontario beef brand, Carve, and fresh seafood from Caudle’s Catch.”

 

Speaking of Ontario…

Our marketing team greeted customers at the Our Ontario booth, promoting our new local food program.

 

We're thrilled to introduce our customers to our local program.

As a proudly Canadian company, we know the importance of supporting our economy and educating our customers on the value of purchasing local.

 

As guests moved through the show, they received a Canada t-shirt from the Flanagan booth, supported Friends of We Care by spinning a wheel at their booth to win prizes, and last but not least, shopped the s.t.o.p. Cash & Carry booth.

Jackie Oakes and Katrina Couto of Flanagan Foodservice

 

A customer favourite, the Cash & Carry booth has hot deals on a wide variety of smallwares items each year.

 

“I had customers tell me that this was one of our better quality shows,” says Ball.

 

“Our show has a unique level of energy,” adds Amber Recchia, Event Coordinator for Flanagan’s. “Flanagan vendors love the level of engagement they receive from our customers.”

 

We take pride in inviting our customers to the shows. We recognize their busy schedules, and greatly appreciate the time they take to spend with us.

 

Our goal for each show is to delight, educate and feed our guests—we've done just that for another successful food show season.

 

Thank you!

 

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Image of Frape & Sons Boutique Bitters

Nestled just one hour north of Toronto in Newmarket, Ontario, is a unique food business that is one of the newest additions to the Flanagan Market.

 

What makes Frape and Sons unique is that, to owner Justin Frape’s knowledge, it is the only excise-exempt craft distillery in Canada. The distillery dedicatedly produces craft cocktail bitters for domestic and international markets.

 

Equipped with brewing and distillation equipment from the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, Frape and Sons makes batches of no more than 500 bottles at a time using ingredients local to the province of Ontario.

 

Mr. Frape, Chief Executive and Head Distiller, has been an avid fan of craft spirits for many years, but a nudge from his lawyer (of all people!) opened up his mind to the possibility of producing distilled spirits using local ingredients.

 

In the fall of 2014, Justin decided to make the jump and purchased an all-copper column reflux still from a coppersmith in Ballard County, Kentucky and grain mashing and brewing equipment was sourced from Knoxville, Tennessee.

 

Frape and Sons was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada when the first distilled spirit base started pouring into a finishing jug on the evening of May 3rd, 2015 in the presence of Justin, his wife Katherine, and a very curious neighbor who had been following the progression of the distillery.

 

Frape & Sons are distillers of craft cocktail bitters. Be careful to make the distinction, here; there are many formulators of bitters, who purchase bulk ethanol and steep botanicals and spices in the alcohol base. Frape and Sons are bitters distillers; they make their alcohol bases by hand with molasses from Ontario sugar refineries, local fruit and local grains. A hundred gallons of distiller's beer, which is the input for the still, will net them between five and eight gallons of alcohol base. It is relatively neutral following distillation, but it could hardly be described as smooth; they prefer single pass distillations for the character that they impart to the bitters.

 

What is unusual about Frape & Sons compared to many bitters producers is that they don’t use neutral spirits in their formulations; the alcohol bases play as much a role in the flavours as the botanicals. The resulting bitters have been described as a little boozy - but not overpoweringly so - with a very clean finish.

 

Frape & Sons bitters have broad culinary and beverage applications, and features botanicals from the boreal forests of northwestern Ontario, the fruits of food producers from the city of Thunder Bay, and water from Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

 

Purchase boutique bitters from Frape & Sons:

Find their products on Flanagan Market, Flanagan's e-commerce platform connecting you directly to local Ontario producers and more than 600 Ontario items.

Learn about Flanagan Market here and sign up to the platform here.

 

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Ontario vegetables with Flanagan Market logo

Proudly Canadian and family-owned, Flanagan's is the largest Canadian owned, independent foodservice distributor in the country. Though Flanagan’s has grown to provide full service to more than 6,000 restaurants and foodservice operations across the province of Ontario, it has become more challenging to serve the niche, local segment of the market, according to Peter Bozzer, Director of Procurement at Flanagan Foodservice.

 

“We kept hearing from customers that local food is a priority for them, so we set out to build a comprehensive local food program that we’ll be able to build on year after year,” says Bozzer.

 

Our Ontario, Flanagan’s new local food program, lists over 400 Ontario products available in its warehouses, as well as provides access to the thousands of other niche, local products across Ontario through its partnership with Local Line.

 

“When we spoke with our customers, it became clear that, although many of them wanted local food, identifying the right suppliers and products was very complex. There were unknowns about suppliers, their products, prices, safety certifications and delivery options. Aggregating all of this information from hundreds of local food suppliers is no easy task, so we were pleased to partner with Local Line to make this information available to all our customers,” says Jackie Oakes, Marketing Manager for Flanagan Foodservice.

 

Local Line, headquartered in Kitchener, is a sales platform for food suppliers, providing e-commerce, CRM and inventory solutions for farmers, brewers, vineyards, butchers, bakers and other food industry suppliers. As a food purchaser, you can sign up with Local Line to access a list of suppliers and their products.

 

“What we’ve effectively done is created a catalogue expansion platform for Flanagan Foodservice. They now offer their own local food e-commerce store with their local supplier partners throughout Ontario. As a customer of Flanagan’s, you get to browse those suppliers and order from them directly, enabling you to access the variety of products you’re looking for with just the click of a button,” says Cole Jones, CEO of Local Line.

 

“The goal is to dramatically increase access to Ontario local food products for our customers. This is an exciting program that will only help everyone involved in the local food supply chain, with each passing day,” says Barry Reid, VP of Sales & Marketing for Flanagan Foodservice.

 

If you’d like to become a customer of the Flanagan Market local food program you can sign up here.

 

If you’d like to become a customer of Flanagan Foodservice and access their main catalogue, you can do so here.

 

If you’d like to become a local supply partner in the local food program, sign up to Local Line here and send them an email at info@localline.ca.

 

 

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Squash cut into stripes with dip

With fall brings the feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts. The shift from warm to cool innately inspires dishes of comfort and depth. While flavour preferences and trends may not vary much from the summer months, main ingredients and their applications are a whole lot heartier.

 

Jumbo ricotta ravioli complements rich garlic shrimp, Parmesan, chives, and basil as a shareable appetizer. Braised pork shoulder sandwich with apple cider and orange gravy incorporates bright citrus flavour while being autumn-appropriate. For a Canadian-inspired fall dessert, feature blueberry bread pudding with vanilla custard, vanilla gelato and maple syrup.

 

These are the fastest-growing flavours this fall season, by mealpart, to inspire your own signature fall flavour:

 

Appetizers

Blue Cheese - 29.2%
Lime - 29.2%
Celery - 27.1%
Basil - 26.0%
Dill - 26.0%
Sesame - 25.0%
Avocado - 22.9%
Cream Cheese - 22.9%
Cajun - 21.9%
Goat Cheese - 21.9%

 

Entrées 

Dill - 29.2%
Citrus - 26.0%
Peppercorn - 25.0%
Sriracha - 21.9%
Mango - 20.8%
Grape - 20.8%
Beet - 17.7%
Rose - 17.7%
Coconut - 16.7%
Brie - 14.6%

 

Dessert 

Crème Brulée - 19.6%
Espresso - 14.1%
Salted Caramel - 13.0%
Toffee - 12.0%
Vanilla Bean - 10.9%
Buttery - 7.6%
Ginger - 6.5%
Mocha - 6.5%
Butterscotch - 5.4%
Blackberry - 5.4%

 

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Caesar - 10.4%
Passion Fruit - 7.3%
Pomegranate - 7.3%
Blackberry - 6.3%
Cherry - 5.2%
Grenadine - 5.2%
Citrus - 5.2%
Sweet - 5.2%
Cucumber - 4.2%

 

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Lady giving food to Food Rescue

We live in a country that is rich in nutrient soil with incredible farming and safe food production practices. Still, 11 million metric tonnes of food is wasted in Canada annually. That works out to be almost 40% of all food produced in Canada. Not only does food in the landfill create methane gas—a leading cause of climate change—but 1 in 8 families in Canada currently struggles to put healthy food on the table.

 

Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization, has been rescuing usable surplus food since 1985. To date, more than 140 million pounds of food has been recovered. It was Ontario’s ever-growing need to provide fresh, healthy food to hungry families that inspired Second Harvest’s innovative online platform, FoodRescue.ca.

 

What is FoodRescue.ca?

FoodRescue.ca is a website that directly connects food businesses with surplus food to non-profits with limited funding and resources.

 

Veronica Summerhill, FoodRescue.ca manager, program and process development, likes to think of it as the eHarmony of food donations. “This system does the work to find partnerships, track a user’s positive impact and access additional resources for safe food handling and donations.”

 

FoodRescue.ca was conceived as a way to help other businesses and non-profits tap into Second Harvest’s expertise in food recovery.

 

“It increases access for non-profits to offer fresher, healthier types of perishable food that they often can’t afford on tight budgets,” adds Kim Couse, Second Harvest director of communications. She stresses the system is for any food business, anywhere, to safely donate any type and quantity of unsold food to any not-for-profit that provides food to those in need.

 

The Benefits of Donating Unsold Food

Food businesses can do so much good in their own neighbourhoods with just a few pounds of food donations a week. “We understand that restaurants work to have minimal food waste,” notes Summerhill, “but in instances where you have supplier samples that can’t be used, or maybe a catering order that doesn’t get picked up, FoodRescue.ca is a great option.”

 

It’s also a philanthropic story to tell. Donation metrics are tracked within the system so restaurants can easily see the number of meals provided in the community, total dollar value of their rescues, and even greenhouse gas emissions averted. Though this information is private, Summerhill says she’s seen a number of business share their positive impact with their customer base through social media.

 

Improving corporate social responsibility results in stronger community relationships, dedicated staff, and customer retention.

 

Restaurants stand to benefit from a financial standpoint, too, over-and-above reduced tipping fees. According to a study released by Champions 12.3, a global coalition to inspire action to reduce food loss and waste, restaurants see $7 profit for every $1 spent on food waste and loss reduction.

 

How it Works


Register your free account

Go to foodrescue.ca/join-now to begin setting up your account. You’ll share basic details like your business name and contact information to get started.

 

Screen shot of how Register your account on Food Rescue.ca

 

Enter details of your excess food

Let Second Harvest know what it is you’re offering. You’ll select your donation type (one-time or recurring), food category, and additional details like temperature and approximate weight.

 

Screenshot of details on how to input food on food rescue.ca

 

You have the choice of selecting a location you’d like to send your donation, or:

 

Be matched with an organization

Your donation is matched with a suitable organization in your community. That charity or non-profit will be notified of your offer.

 

Your food is picked up to be donated

If the organization accepts, they’ll pick up your donation at the location and time specified.

 

Partner organizations are provided with cooler bags, ice packs, and thermometers to ensure food safety is maintained throughout the entire chain of custody, explains Summerhill.

 

The Ontario Donation of Food Act protects businesses who donate food in good faith, and ensures no liability for the donor. For further peace of mind, social service organizations are screened by Second Harvest to confirm they are registered non-profits, have been Public Health inspected, and are educated regarding safe temperature-sensitive food transport.

 

Together, We Have Impact

“By providing surplus food to charity partners, food businesses are directly impacting the lives of individuals, organizations, and their community as a whole,” says Summerhill. “Community organizations are now able to offer more food programs, or even start a meal or snack program where there wasn’t one before.”

 

To date there are more than 700 food businesses and almost 600 non-profits in Ontario using FoodRescue.ca. Even still, greater business participation is the number one piece of feedback from non-profit partners, according to Summerhill.

“The appetite to rescue surplus food is large!”

 

For more information and to create your free account, visit foodrescue.ca.

 

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Asparagus on a cutting board with lemon

Along with maple syrup, fiddle heads and rhubarb, asparagus is a harbinger of spring, a clarion that the winter is behind us and fresh produce is ready to roll out consistently. There aren’t many chefs – or restaurant patrons who really care about good food – who don’t look forward to asparagus season. 

 

To taste the early season, try to eat a beautiful green stalk raw – immediately – after it has been picked: it has amazing flavour and juiciness. It grows well in many areas in the south of the province, and there are a number of producers in Ontario if you want to source local asparagus.

 

Vegetable royalty welcomes spring

The plant’s earliest, most tender stalks are a vibrant apple green with a tip tinged with purple – the colour that we associate with royalty. And the slender vegetable is indeed a royal guest as it starts to appear on restaurant menus. In fact, the earlier in the season, the sweeter the asparagus: the stalks grow from underground rhizomes and, because they must be picked by hand, it helps explain the vegetable’s price at times.

 

A centuries’ old dish

The Romans and none other than Julius Caesar loved the stalk; he simply ate it with his hands. There’s even a Roman phrase: “Faster than you can cook asparagus.” Centuries later, ancient chefs created cooking vessels which kept the thicker stalks submerged in the cooking liquid while leaving the delicate tips above water to be steamed. There were also inventive serving bowls designed for the shape of asparagus which had hollow sides that were filled with boiling water to keep the freshly cooked asparagus warm.

 

At the table, beurre noisette, with its dark hazelnut flavour and colour, has been drizzled over asparagus for centuries of dining. Asparagi alla Parmigiana is an authentic dish of Emilia-Romagna, wherein resides Parma, Italy: cooked asparagus tips are sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese and melted butter. In Tuscany, a food Mecca if there ever were one, asparagus soup is made with saffron, pine nuts and pistachios.

White asparagus, a more expensive version of the vegetable, but one that retains a certain perceived luxury quality, is popular in Europe. It is grown covered with mounds of earth to inhibit chlorophyll production and has to be harvested by being cut underground, a labour-intensive process that adds to its cost.

 

Treat your asparagus with love

Using the time-honoured mechanical method of preparing asparagus, gently bend the stalk with fingers holding opposite ends aiming for the point where woody and tender meet, and snap it off. You can finish the preparation by shaving the woody end with a harp peeler to create a more uniform size for cooking. 

In terms of ways to serve asparagus, simple is often best. You can do the Julius Caesar trick: just prepare the asparagus spears with a dose of melted butter, as he liked it. Adding a bit of fennel to the butter gives a lovely anise flavour to the dish. 

Grilling the raw asparagus and giving it a liberal salting and peppering along with a squeeze of lemon, a few glugs of some good olive oil and perhaps shavings of Parmesan cheese is an excellent way to highlight this bit of early summer. Grill the spears in batches according to their diameter for even cooking.

 

When the season is moving toward its close, a classic cream of asparagus soup may be in order; garnish it with the delicate tips and a drizzle of cream or olive oil to present it simply and beautifully. Another classic, asparagus Polonaise, is ready for a culinary comeback when it comes to the spears: dress cooked hot asparagus with hard-boiled egg yolk that has been passed through a fine-meshed sieve, drizzle with melted butter and golden-toasted breadcrumbs. For the morning daypart, there are probably few breakfasts as delicious as an omelette with fresh asparagus tips and a few scallions, cut on the bias, for garnish.

As a salad, mix grilled asparagus pieces with a bit of pesto, Parmesan, and perhaps some slices of smoked salmon. Toss with olive oil and lemon juices, a few croutons and top with a sunny-side up egg. Garnish with Parmesan shavings.

 

While fresh is best, remember that asparagus is remarkable as a preserve, so consider a quick pickle. Put together a mix of vinegars with about 100 grams of sugar per litre of liquid. Add peppers, spices, herbs like tarragon or rosemary and garlic. Boil the mixture, pour it over the asparagus in jars and store in the fridge. Your customers will be able to enjoy the local asparagus of May in the depths of February cold.

 

Refreshing asparagus

As the season rolls through its prime months of May and June and approaches July, the rhizomes begin to weaken and become depleted leaving the asparagus less flavourful.

This tender crop loses its freshness very quickly – in a matter of hours, actually, and more rapidly than other vegetables, especially in the first 24 hours. Store asparagus cool and away from light. The stalk continues to draw on its sugars becoming tougher and less juicy.

 

To re-invigorate it before cooking, give it some sweetness: add about a teaspoon of sugar to a half-cup of water and soak the asparagus before cooking.

 

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Flanagan Foodservice Our Ontario

 

Since the influential book The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating was published in 2009, the idea of local food has been studied, refined, argued over and embraced. Whatever might be said about local food and the shapes it can take, the concept remains popular and has wide consumer appeal.

 

“This is not a trend. Local is here to stay,” says Phil Amaral, Territory Manager at Flanagan Foodservice, in defining local.

 

“The idea of local does have to do with geographic range, but a lot of it also has to do with being a small operation and a smaller business practice with options that aren’t often offered by larger operations. It can be something within a 20 mile radius or a 100 mile radius. It could be all of Ontario.”

 

Flanagan's local food program

Flanagan Foodservice Our Ontario logoFollowing the Foodland Ontario definitions for Ontario food, Flanagan Foodservice has more than 650 local products currently listed as part of its Our Ontario local food program–from produce, dairy products and cheese, eggs and potatoes to proteins including poultry, beef and pork.

 

Flanagan’s local beef products are sourced from fifty Ontario farmers, and produce comes from Bayshore Vegetable Shippers, a cooperative that represents more than one hundred local growers.

 

Amaral notes that Flanagan Foodservice features artisanal cheese makers such as Woolwich Dairy. “They make some excellent cheeses, and are about 80 kilometers away from our distribution centre. It’s that kind of tie in that a traditional broadline distributor wouldn’t bring in. The smaller producers offer unique products that we like to be able to share.”

 

During the summer months especially, when fresh produce is abundant, Amaral says that he thinks of Ontario first and Canada second when it comes to local. His family background gave him a good sense of local food grown and produced in his community. “It’s how I got interested in food, how I was moulded, and the natural way I think about food,” Amaral says.

 

Economics, health and the stories behind the food

Eventually, his work as a chef in the restaurant business told him the importance of the movement. “I firmly believe in real food, food that has a story behind it. You know the farm family and perhaps your kids went to school with their kids. It’s that kind of connection that ties things together. It makes sense,” he says.

 

Economically, it makes sense too. Supporting a local community and its producers and keeping money in the area is a hallmark of local, says Amaral. “And then there is the health aspect. We all know it’s often better for us than something that is picked half ripe from half way across the world and brought here.”

 

Local can boost operator revenue

The step to more local ingredients is a small one but perhaps unfamiliar, according to Amaral. He states realistically that the decision can be a positive one when incorporated thoughtfully into a restaurant’s food purchases. “It’s challenging at first, especially when costs are involved and it’s easy to go cheaper with a product from Texas,” he says.

 

However, once customers see the effort a restaurant has made in choosing local, the pay back can begin—but with informing and promoting.

 

“Push it. Talk about it. Be proud of it,” Amaral says. “Make sure that there is signage and list the names of the local farms that you are dealing with. Train your staff to understand local and be able to talk about it.”

 

The current interest in local continues to increase among features that many, many diners look for when making a restaurant choice. They want quality products more than ever; they want to know about the livestock, the feed they are getting and producers’ stewardship of the land. “More customers are asking these questions about local. They’ll support the businesses that are putting in the effort to offer more local ingredients and foods on their menus.”

 

Finally, Amaral’s experience tells him that passion is what motivates smaller producers and why they care. “That passion can translate into a restaurant and its menu,” he says of the stories about producing local food. “Often, there is not a lot of money to be made for small, local producers. But there is pride that drives their business. These producers believe in their food and they want to improve and get better each day.”

 

5 reasons to buy local

Fresh and nutritious: Shorter travel distances can mean fresher and more nutritious food.
Community oriented: Local farmers have families in the community.

 

Environmental sustainability: Local farms help preserve land, water, natural resources.
Selection: Heritage varieties, non-GMO, natural, organic choices.

 

Boosts local economies: Farmers get more money for their food so they can grow and thrive.

 

Learn more about Flanagan's local proogram

 

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Salad with egg and chicken

Anita Stewart is an author and food activist, and for her service to and expertise in gastronomy—especially regarding Canadian cuisine—she has been named a Member of the Order of Canada as well as having been installed as Food Laureate of the Ontario Agricultural College at the University of Guelph.

 

However, Stewart’s contribution to food in Canada is also deeply rooted in the grassroots of what the country is when it comes to the food of everyday life. As founder of the nation’s food celebration “Food Day Canada,” Stewart is dedicated to defining and promoting Canadian ingredients and food from coast to coast to coast.

 

With the upcoming Food Day Canada celebration slated to take place on August 5—and during the year of Canada’s 150th birthday—we had a chat with Stewart.

 

Flanagan Foodservice: What is “Shop Like a Canadian”?

Anita Stewart: As Food Day Canada approaches and in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, we’ve selected 150 ingredients to help us all shop like the Canadians we are.

 

And those are products grown or raised by Canadian farmers and prepared and packaged by Canadian food companies?

Stewart: Yes. We’ve been looking forward to this for a couple of years now. The shop-like-a-Canadian ingredient list is the big one from my perspective. We’re challenging restaurants from coast to coast to take a look at those ingredients and build a dish. Post it and do the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook thing. Hashtag it Food Day Canada.

 

Really, my goal is to create a visual album, if you will, of the ingredients and the people who are doing good things coast to coast to coast. It’s going to be a lot of fun and really interesting to watch.

 

You even have some chefs aboard the “Canada C3” icebreaker that is making a historic journey around the 23,000 kilometers of our coasts. How Canadian is that?

Stewart: The ship is travelling for 150 days around all three coasts. We have 11 Food Day Canada chefs on board on various legs of the journey. They will be cooking for the ship’s crew and the guests on board.

 

I’m trying to arrange meeting the ship in Campbell River, B.C. Jamie Kennedy and I will be boarding and will be the final chef to Victoria. It’s a pretty cool thing.

 

You were keynote speaker at Terroir Symposium this past spring. What are your impressions of the state of “Canadian cuisine” after participating?

Stewart: What I see is that things are pretty diverse, actually, and it is pride-filled, for sure. That’s nice to see. The thing that I’m noticing is that younger chefs really get the idea of Canadian ingredients.

 

It’s funny because the goal for me is to work myself out of a job! I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to have a soapbox all the time. I want chefs to see what they’ve really got here and they are seeing that.

 

The country is at 150 years but there’s much, much more to its past when it comes to First Nations people and food. How do you see that?

Stewart: Absolutely. They have food traditions which in some ways are more fluid than ours. As settlers arrived, they brought their own seeds and had their own ideas of what food was. They saw what they thought was a barren land and no agriculture to speak of particularly.

 

The reality was there was a lot of agriculture happening here. The peoples of the plains moved to their food sources whereas when you have more settled areas—such as what became southwestern Ontario—people settled at the food sources. There was a huge food tradition there, but it was still very foraged.”

 

And the idea of recipes?

Stewart: I laugh when I hear about people asking, ‘Where are [they] going to get First Nations recipes?’ Well, there wasn’t such a thing. There were methods – and that is what is so exciting – and foraging for plant foods and animal foods, which of course happened from coast to coast to coast.

 

What about food and sustainability?

Stewart: That’s a massive question, and the answer is quite broad. Of course, in our past, if you didn’t sustain your food sources as indigenous hunter-gatherers, you simply died. So you had to sustain those food sources. It was a matter of survival, and in some cases it didn’t work. People did starve to death.

 

And what about now?

Stewart: As for how things are happening in 2017, the whole idea around foraging and harvesting the wild has become much more front-and-centre for many chefs and even home cooks. But we have to be really cognizant of the fact that we could wipe out whatever it is we are going after unless we really are careful. I mean, you see people with shovels going in for wild leeks—that’s not sustainable. Frankly, when I see them in a local grocery store, I’m horrified. That, to me, is just not sustainable at all. But if we’re careful and respectful, we can do it really well.

 

Done properly, can it help define something that might be called “Canadian cuisine”?

Stewart: We have so much. That can give us a point of differentiation of our cuisine no matter where we are in Canada that no other nation can emulate. It’s ours!

 

How is local doing? Do we take it for granted?

Stewart: It depends on who you are talking to. Some people are very conscious of it. But at big grocery stores, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors there. It’s coming, however, and we still need to push for that.

 

To learn more about Food Day Canada, visit fooddaycanada.ca.

To learn more about Flanagan's local food items, visit flanagan.ca/shop-local-food.

 

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