Across the country this week, Walmart is kicking off its annual fundraising campaign in support of the Red Cross. All funds raised at the till go toward helping the Red Cross respond to disasters -- such as fires, flooding, or power outages -- right here in Canada.

To help launch the campaign, Red Cross is hosting several “disaster dining” challenges in Walmart stores. The idea of the challenge is to see who can make the best meal using only non-perishable foods that you can store in your emergency preparedness kit with no electricity (which is exactly what it could be like in an emergency situation when there is no power).

For today’s event in Ontario, we put a twist on the challenge: not only were meals to be made with non-perishable foods and no electricity, but they also had to be vegan friendly. This idea was inspired by executive vegan chef Doug McNish who participated in a special cooking demonstration during last year’s Walmart kick-off.

We love having Chef McNish attend these events because he understands how important the Red Cross disaster program is in Canada. About ten years ago, he and his family were helped by the Red Cross after they were forced to evacuate from their home due to fire. Check out the video to hear more about the chef’s story with the Red Cross.

Chef McNish attended today’s event to judge, alongside Milton Mayor Gord Krantz, dishes made by three participants: Julie Slack, of the Milton Canadian Champion, Barry Kory, of the Milton Fire Department, and Red Cross disaster volunteer Steven Beyrouty.

Turns out, Steven is quite the chef and has culinary training from institutions in Montreal, New York and Paris. He took home today’s prize – an autographed copy of Chef McNish’s recently published book, Eat Raw, Eat Well.

Check out our Ontario Flickr page to see more photos.