For one year now, Althea Guiboche has made sure Winnipeg’s hungry "got bannock."
Every Thursday afternoon, "The Bannock Lady" sets up at Main Street and Dufferin Avenue andserves up homemade bannock and soup to the city’s hungry and homeless.
To celebrate her first anniversary of helping the hungry, Guiboche is holding Got Bannock? In Honour of the Village We Once Had, a free chili and bannock lunch and clothing giveaway on Jan. 30 at 1 p.m. in the Neechi Commons parking lot (865 Main St.).
Inspired by the first Idle No More rallies in December 2012, the North End resident decided she needed to do something to help her community’s needy. Coincidentally, the 39-year-old mother of seven had just started baking bannock for the first time in her life.
"One evening my friend asked me to make her a batch of bannock, so I whipped it up and was going to drop it off at her home," Guiboche said.
"I had $14, so I was putting that in the tank and these two guys asked me for food. I said, ‘No sorry,’ and then I thought ‘Oh wait, I have bannock!’ I gave them some of that fresh from the oven bannock and a can of soup each.
"Just from that, I was like ‘Oh my god, that’s it! That’s what I need to do.’ I needed to make food and feed these people, ready-to-eat food that’s made with love."
Guiboche said she served 19 people a Solo Cup-sized portion of bannock on day one of Got Bannock? Now, she sometimes has hundreds of hungry people lined up to get a taste of her bread.
Word spread quickly, but there have been a few bumps along the way. In March, the province’s health department tried to shut Guiboche’s operation down, claiming she didn’t have the proper training and shouldn’t be cooking out of her home.
Undaunted, Guiboche obtained the proper papers and started making her bannock at Ralph Brown Community Centre.
For Guiboche, who was homeless herself for a period in 2011, quitting was never an option.
"Just the people on the streets, their appreciation and just the amount of need out there," said Guiboche on why she continues.
"It’s just so mind-boggling that so many different people in different situations are all still in the same situation. They’re all food poor. They don’t have enough money to eat."
Guiboche, who is also a member of the Aboriginal Writers’ Collective, has been recognized for her efforts, winning the Ka Ni Kanichihk’s Oscar Lathlin Memorial Award in June, and she was one of five recipients of the 2013 Manitoba Heroes Award in October.
"Awards are not why I set out to do this, but if it helps with the message, then it’s all good. I’m trying to build a village around me," Guiboche said.
She’s humble, but Guiboche will say her bannock is pretty "awesome." But again, she said that’s not the point.
"My bannock comes with a message, that people care about them, that they should not be out there and I’m going to do my darndest to bring about change and awareness, that this (hunger) is going on when it shouldn’t be."