While this past year presented many challenges, there were also many moments when communities, families and friends rallied together for the greater good, even when we had to stay apart.

As members of almost every community, Canadian egg farmers have seen it first-hand, supporting local initiatives and donating millions of fresh, high-quality eggs to food banks, charities and organizations coast to-coast.

Our food industry stepped up this past year and their stories are worth celebrating. Chef Lynn Crawford, Canadian culinary powerhouse and Food Network star, has a passion for food that starts well before it gets to the table — at the farm. That's why chef Lynn is celebrating a farmer whose product inspires her culinary creations and whose charitable efforts inspire her outside the kitchen.

Ontario egg farmer Gary West is that someone who has made a difference in thousands of Ontario school children's lives by providing them with breakfast, and like most farmers, he did it all behind the scenes.

Chef Lynn: Your egg farm has been family-run for years, what does it mean to your family to be part of the food industry and local community?

Gary: The whole food industry is like family. I feel lucky to be able to provide food for my community and I’m so proud that my son wants to take over the farm. And that’s something people don’t understand, egg farmers are small businesses, often family-run. This is a big reason why we support our communities.

Chef Lynn: Over the last few years you’ve begun an initiative with Ontario schools, can you tell us a little about that?

Gary: My sisters are teachers, as is my son’s wife. We have a close connection to our local schools so we’d heard about kids going to school without breakfast. I remember school was hard on a full stomach, and near impossible on an empty one. We started by providing ready-to-eat, hard-cooked eggs to one school in our community, and got such a positive reaction that over five years we’ve built the program up to support more than one hundred and forty local schools. Due to the pandemic, we changed to individual packaging, but as long as there are hungry kids, we’ll keep on feeding them.

Chef Lynn: What does it mean to be a part of Canada’s food supply chain?

Gary: We love what we do and we’re proud to be a part of one of the hardest working industries. But so rarely do we get to see the smiles our eggs put on Canadian's faces. That’s something I’ve loved about the program — seeing students enjoying our eggs just makes it all worthwhile.

Chef Lynn: How important is it to have access to locally-produced food?

Gary: For one thing, it helps stretch the food dollar. Canadians can provide their families with a nutritious meal from just one carton of fresh, local, high-quality eggs. And thanks to chefs like you, they know how versatile eggs are.

Chef Lynn: Twenty-five years as a chef, and the versatility of eggs still surprises me. It’s amazing to see a growing respect for the ingredients, and where they come from.

Gary: That’s a really positive thing that’s come out of this. That, and the whole country is thinking like a community, trying to support each other. It’s what we do as Canadians, we care. We also appreciate all the chefs, and everyone in the food industry who work so hard to make sure Canadians can stay safe, secure and well-fed. I always say, ‘you’ve got to be Grade A and you’ve gotta get cracking in this business,' so I better get back to it.

Continue celebrating local heroes like Gary West and local chefs like Lynn Crawford through more heartwarming stories at @eggsoeufs or by following the #LocalChefLocalHero hashtag.