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The 'no American food' diet — How an Ontario man ate only local food all summer

A Barrie, Ont. man tried out, all summer, the "no American food" diet. Nothing but Ontario grown and raised food and nothing made south of the border. Kevin McCracken tells us why he did it.

And he says he's never eaten better

Kevin McCracken stands in front a Hewitts Farm Market stand in Barrie, Ont. This summer McCracken tried out a no American food diet, instead eating Ontario grown and raised food. (Kevin McCracken)

If it's true that you are what you eat, then Kevin McCracken is Ontario.

Ontario corn, cucumbers, peas, watermelon and more.

McCracken, from Barrie Ont., also made a point, this summer, of cutting out one staple from his diet — American food. And he says he's never eaten better in his life. 

He spoke with the CBC's Conrad Collaco about why for the past few months he ate only the good things that grow in Ontario. You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button below.

A Barrie, Ont. man tried out, all summer, the "no-American food" diet. Nothing but Ontario grown and raised food and nothing made south of the border. Kevin McCracken tells us why he did it. 7:11

Kevin McCracken

What made you want to eat locally and drop all American food from your diet?

Back in June when the United States announced they were going to put tariffs on steel and aluminum it hit close to home. My family has a rich history working at Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie. It motivated me to see if there was something I could do to make a bit of a difference. I decided that one of the easy things to do was to focus on eating only Ontario produce. It actually went really, really well. 

You do really feel good that you know the money you're spending is staying right here in our area and in our province and in our country.- Kevin McCracken

What did you end up eating?

Early in the summer it was the fresh asparagus and strawberries then the corn and the maple syrup. They were just so delicious. I've never met somebody that doesn't think Ontario strawberries are the best strawberries going. As the summer went on I found the beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchinis. Broccoli. All of those different fruits and vegetables that grow here are just so delicious it was worth keeping going on and trying other things as well.

Did you find that everything you wanted to eat you could find here?

There was the odd time that I ran into a bit of trouble. Berries were a bit of a problem sometimes. American berries seem to be filling up the shelves. It wasn't that big of a deal. I have a 5-year-old son and he likes berries but we switched to watermelon or cantaloupe. He's every bit as happy eating that as he was, for sure. 
Three generations of the McCracken family have dinner on the patio. On the menu? Canadian beef, farmers market hot sauce, fresh Ontario salad and a VQA wine. (Kevin McCracken)

What kind of meat did you eat? 

I'm a hunter and an angler. As far as red meat goes I was fortunate last year to be involved in a moose and a deer harvest. So, I have a lot of red meat. I did purchase half a pig from a hobby farmer in Huntsville. That's been a great experience too. It's just delicious pork. 

How much money did it cost? More or less?​

It's funny. Some people think it's more expensive when you shop at the little fruit stands and sometimes in the grocery store. Even where it is slightly more expensive because the food is so fresh it lasts longer. I definitely saved money over the summer because I threw very little food away. There was very little waste.  

Did you notice any impact on your health?

I've always eaten pretty well and having a five-year-old son I make sure we cook and prepare really good food but there was definitely more vegetables and fruit in our diet. Maybe less carbs — the white breads and the pastas. I don't think we ate quite as much of that. I know we had a summer filled with healthy eating, for sure.

Kevin McCracken's all Ontario diet included beer from the Northern Superior Brewing co. in Sault Ste. Marie. (Kevin McCracken)

What advice would you have for others who want to do this?

I do. I would say, give it a try. Sometimes it can be frustrating to find food actually grown in Ontario. It's good to talk to people and hear what they have to say about it. People are very supportive and more and more people are interested in it. The Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has tonnes of excellent recipes on their website and Twitter feed. 

Was Ontario grown and raised food hard to find?

No Frills near my house has an excellent produce section. It's loaded with fruit and vegetables that are grown in Ontario. It isn't the same at other grocery stores. I'm fortunate that I have a Hewitts Farm stand near my house. They are fully stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long.

You do really feel good that you know the money you're spending is staying right here in our area and in our province and in our country. It's not just an Ontario thing. We can translate this into all the products that we buy from across the country. 

Now that winter is coming can you continue to only eat Ontario produce?

My hope is to try. I have some stuff in my freezer like frozen grapes and things like that. If not I might have to shift my focus to some of the other countries that produce food.
Kevin McCracken's son Michael helped out with his dad's all Ontario diet by catching this small mouth bass from Lake Superior. (Kevin McCracken)

About the Author

Conrad Collaco is a CBC News producer for CBC Hamilton with extensive experience in online, television and radio news. Follow him on Twitter at @ConradCollaco, or email him at conrad.collaco@cbc.ca.

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