When University of Guelph president Dr. Charlotte Yates visited the Toronto Argonauts training camp on campus last week, the team’s players raved to her about the food. 

Trays of colourful veggies in a kitchen. A chef is in the background.

In fact, the Canadian Football League (CFL) team loved the food so much, some players have taken selfies with it. 

Throughout the Argos’ five-week training camp (May 9-June 4), U of G’s Hospitality Services has provided players and staff with meals full of protein, carbs and sugar made from locally sourced products, including those grown right on campus. 

“We’re very proud of being the food university,” said Lisa Tersigni-Holt, who oversees the Hospitality Services’ catering and conference team. “We know that the Argos appreciate everything that gets put into it, and our team takes it all quite seriously.”  

U of G has hosted the Argos training camp numerous times since the 1980s. Recently, the two parties signed a contract that will see U of G host the training camp and the team’s exhibition game for the next three years. 

The partnership is a part of Argos’ history and is one built on familiarity and mutual respect, said Michael “Pinball” Clemons, general manager of the team. 

A continuous learning opportunity 

“We’ve developed our menus over the years having served other athletes,” said Vijay Nair, executive chef with Hospitality Services. “It’s a great learning opportunity for our team and helps us plan meals for our student-athletes.”    

Those learning opportunities come from simple interactions with the players, asking them “how’s it going?” or “how was the food this morning?” and learning what they like or not. 

From there, the staff tweak the menus to ensure they go over well – something they’re also happy to do when Argos staff say the menu needs to change because the players need to cut back on carbs or add more protein to bulk up.  

“Our staff are also great about adapting to making changes for individual needs,” said Tersigni-Holt. “I think that’s something the Argos appreciate. We can roll with it.” 

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition  

A bowl of salad sits in front of a salad bar.

Bread, assorted pastries, cut melon slices, clean proteins (like chicken and tofu), mixed green salads and potatoes are frequent items on the menu – with pasta always an option.   

“A well-balanced diet is important for everyone,” said Dr. Graham Holloway, a professor in U of G’s Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences. “While we always hear about concerns of eating too many calories in the development of obesity, elite athletes expend so much energy in their daily exercise training that a bigger concern with these individuals is ensuring they eat a high number of calories.”  

And while assorted pastries and other sugary items may seem like an outlier to a well-balanced diet, they are the fastest and most efficient fuel source for athletes during exercise, added Holloway, who is also the associate dean of research and graduate studies at the College of Biological Science. 

Protein is essential, too, as it helps prevent muscle loss during training, said Holloway.  

Ensuring the players’ nutritional needs are met takes time and consultation, with menu planning and preparation with team coaches, trainers, nutritionists and therapists beginning a year before training camp starts.  

The food is the best in the country

In the grand scheme, though, it’s one big team approach, with the entire campus coming together to host sports teams like the Argos, said Tersigni-Holt. 

“We can’t really do anything without working with our partners on campus,” she added, referencing the work of U of G’s athletics and residences staff to host the Argos. 

The partnership allows the Argos to feel at home when on U of G’s campus, said Chris Balenovich, the team’s media relations manager.  Food is a significant contributing factor to that sentiment.  

“The food is the best in the country, and the hospitality the University provides to our staff and players is unparalleled,” said Balenovich. “We can’t thank them enough for hosting us.” 

And U of G is glad to host them.  

“We are thrilled to have had the Toronto Argonauts on campus for training camp,” said Ed Townsley, executive director of Hospitality Services. “As Canada’s Food University, we are proud to serve the team with fresh local food that is culturally diverse and nutritious.”  

Lisa Tersigni-Holt