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Health officials flatten bannock handouts

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The province’s health department says it will explain why a women who has been making bannock and handing it out to the hungry and homeless is in trouble with food inspectors.

The issue will get a public airing at 1 p.m. with a press conference at the province’s health department offices downtown.

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 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.

Guiboche said she's willing to take up an offer of free training, but cooking out of a commercial kitchen would be problematic because she's a low-income earner and can't afford child care for her three youngest. She said officials didn't issue an ultimatum, but she's torn between doing what she feels is the right thing and bowing to the authorities.

"I don't know if I should keep going. Am I going to get in trouble? If I have to stop, I guess I'll have to tell the world that I can't continue," she said.

Any cooking training would likely be redundant, as Guiboche has been active in the kitchen since she started baking bread as a 10-year-old.

"I taught myself. I started Googling a lot of recipes and figured out that it's not very hard as long as you have the right ingredients. You have to plan ahead when you're low-income and buy in bulk," she said.

As good as the people she's feeding feel, she might feel even better.

"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. I would do this all the time if I had the resources, funding and the facilities," she said.

She 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, but she's not sure if she'll continue.

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."

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 A5


Updated on Friday, March 15, 2013 at 9:00 AM CDT: adds video

11:27 AM: The officials who contacted Guiboche were Manitoba Health (provincial) employees, not employed by the City of Winnipeg.

12:02 PM: Updated: province to hold press conference.

12:43 PM: We will be live streaming the press conference.

March 17, 2013 at 1:30 PM: corrects typo

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