Hearty broth of care and cuisine

Stone Soup has 40-plus restaurants offering bowls of goodness to raise funds for school nutrition programs


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As the story goes, a little bit of generosity can feed a village.

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As the story goes, a little bit of generosity can feed a village.

The annual Stone Soup fundraiser in support of the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba returns this week with dozens of restaurants across the province donating a portion of soup sales to school meal programs.

The event — which takes inspiration from the community-minded folktale of the same name — was founded in 2013 as a one-day soup-tasting competition between Winnipeg’s top chefs.

Organizers were forced to revamp amid the pandemic and, for the second year in a row, the fundraiser is operating in a similar fashion to a food festival, with local eateries offering specialty soups during the week-long event.

“We support programs in every region of the province,” says Janelle Wotton, a community dietitian and strategic initiatives manager with the council. “So, to now have an event that can have restaurants participating across the province… and the funds going back into their communities and the schools and students there is something we really want to continue.”

More than 40 restaurants are participating this year, with representation in Winnipeg, Flin Flon, Whitemouth, Steinbach, Brandon and elsewhere. Diners can vote online for their favourite soups and a winner will be selected from each region of the province.

Funds raised through the new format are on par with previous iterations of Stone Soup, Wotton says, adding that last year’s event brought in $29,000.

The council has been funding school nutrition since 2001 and currently provides over $2 million in grants to more than 300 programs annually. Approximately 40,000 students from kindergarten to Grade 12 benefit from these free snack and meal programs.

Still, the need for nutritious food is outpacing the funding — there are currently 20 schools on the council’s waitlist. Wotton points to rising food costs and larger numbers of students accessing free meals as causes for the uptick in demand.

“There’s more students needing food regularly throughout the day, maybe not just once but a couple of times throughout the day,” she says. “There’s a critical need to be able to address this so all students have the same opportunities.”

This year’s Stone Soup event, which runs until Sunday, March 19, kicked off Monday at Tec Voc High School, which offers free breakfast, lunch and snacks through council funding. Hundreds of students in the school of 1,100 access the food programs daily.

“We don’t turn students away,” says Tec Voc vice-principal Lindsey Munz. “We certainly have specific students or families that do share with us that they do have a need, but any student can come — maybe they missed breakfast or forgot their lunch one day. We know that in order to learn, they need to be well fed.”

During the kick-off event, students in the school’s culinary program were ladling out cups of Three Sisters and Leek and Potato soup to peers, staff and attendees. Grade 12 student Noah Rexer is involved with the breakfast program and starts his school day making eggs, smoothies and pancakes for classmates.

“We have committed to removing the stigma and shame surrounding free food in schools,” Rexer told the crowd during the media conference. “Many children feel as though it’s wrong to need nutrition… However, we believe that everyone has the right to good food and kind people.”

In addition to improving classroom engagement and participation among students, Munz says the food programs have helped foster a sense of community within Tec Voc and have created beneficial relationships between students and staff.

“For a lot of students, this is their first point of contact when they come to school in the morning,” she says. “Any day you come (into the cafeteria), there’s lots of laughter, lots of conversation. So, regardless of what’s going on in their lives, whether it be good or bad, they know that they’re coming here and their first interaction is going to be a positive one.”

Participating restaurants will donate $1 per soup sold until Sunday, March 19 to the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba. The organization is also running an online raffle during Stone Soup week with single tickets available for $5 apiece and up to 50 tickets for $50. Visit childnutritioncouncil.com for more information.


Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 9:40 AM CDT: Corrects dollar figure and number of students

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