Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bannock is OK, chili not so much

Humanitarian requires training: health inspector

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A woman who had been making and handing out bannock to Winnipeg's homeless is not in trouble -- but she can no longer hand out home-cooked soup or chili without a permit, the provincial government said Friday.

"We're not in the business of fining people who are helping the poor," said Michael LeBlanc, a manager with Manitoba Health. The provincial government is responsible for food safety in the province, including in the city of Winnipeg.

Althea Guiboche had been a one-woman food kitchen in recent weeks -- hitting the streets on 20 different occasions, feeding up to 100 people at a time. But on Thursday, she said she health officials told her she didn't have the proper training, should no longer be taking donations into her home and shouldn't be cooking out of her own kitchen.

"It's kind of crushing, a little bit," said the 38-year-old single mother of seven.

Provincial officials clarified their position at a news conference Friday. Guiboche could not be reached for reaction.

"The bannock, we're not concerned about. It's low-risk. It's the chili and soup... we don't want to make these people's lives any worse by having an accident like food poisoning," LeBlanc said.

Provincial officials have been in touch with Guiboche and reported she's teamed up with a grassroots group called Chili from the Heart, which has a permit to cook chili. She's baking her bannock and they're handing out chili, LeBlanc said.

Chili from the Heart spokeswoman Darlene Phillips said her group jumped through hoops to get the provincial permit. Holy Cross School lets them use their commercial kitchen.

Chili teamed up for the first time with Guiboche on Thursday, handing out bannock and chili on the corner of Dufferin Avenue and Main Street.

"The people would walk up with desperation in their eyes and we'd say, 'Would you like a bowl of chili? Do you want some bannock?' Their eyes would light up. And the desperation would be gone for a moment. Our hearts were so full when we left," Phillips said.

She said they'll team up with Guiboche again. "That lady's amazing. She's got next to nothing and she still finds a way to give," Phillips said.

Chili from the Heart and Guiboche both solicit donations of ingredients. A Saturday afternoon event at Neechi Commons on Main Street called Resistance/Words for the Revolution is also jumping on board for Guiboche's bannock mission.

They'll collect names of groups and individuals that want to help or offer kitchen training and donations, an organizer said.

The province also offered Guiboche training free of charge for a food-handling certificate.

Fines for violating food-inspection laws can run up to $600.

You can follow Guiboche's progress on her Facebook page Got Bannock?

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 B1


Updated on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 9:54 AM CDT: adds videos

March 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM: Michael LeBlanc is a manager with Manitoba Health.

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