A woman who had been making bannock and handing it out to Winnipeg's homeless is not in trouble for doing so -- but she cannot hand out home-cooked soup or chili without a permit, provincial health inspectors said Friday.
"We're not in the business of fining people who are helping the poor," said Michael LeBlanc, Manitoba's chief public health inspector. The province is the government authority responsible for food safety in the province, including in the city of Winnipeg.
Althea Guiboche, who estimated she had hit the streets on 20 different occasions in the last seven weeks -- feeding up to 100 people at a time -- said Thursday she has been contacted by health officials who 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 press conference Friday afternoon.
"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 that she's teamed up with a a grassroots group called Chili from the Heart. She's baking her bannock and they're handing out chilli, LeBlanc said. That arrangement is fine with the province, he said.
Guiboche had been busy soliciting donations of ingredients such as flour, baking powder and vegetable or canola oil as well as tinfoil, napkins, utensils and other baking needs.
"I would do this all the time if I had the resources, funding and the facilities," she said Thursday.
"It's absolutely great; it's pure bliss. I can feel like that for hours. It makes you feel so great to see the appreciation in people's eyes and big smiles on their faces. It's awesome."
Guiboche was inspired to lend a hand to the hungry after attending an Idle No More rally at the legislature in January. She said she chose bannock as her menu item of choice because it takes many of those she's feeding back to a time when they spent plenty of time with their families.
"It brings them together and serves as a reminder that we need to become a community again."
With files from Geoff Kirbyson