On April 14 around lunch time, a small van rolled up to the front of Grace Hospital. Jennifer Chen, Magi Hadad and Nour Ali stepped out, opened the trunk, and started unloading boxes of home-cooked Syrian meals.

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On April 14 around lunch time, a small van rolled up to the front of Grace Hospital. Jennifer Chen, Magi Hadad and Nour Ali stepped out, opened the trunk, and started unloading boxes of home-cooked Syrian meals.

Ali opened one of the boxes and pulled out a note. It says "To our health-care workers, thank you for all that you’re doing."

This food comes from a local initative called From Our Kitchens to Our Heroes, involving locally-owned restaurants and organizations from Winnipeg’s immigrant and refugee community. The initiative, organized by Chen, is providing free meals to hospital workers, who are risking their lives during  the COVID-19 pandemic.

We know that feeling of helplessness and uncertainty

Originally, the plan was to donate meals for two weeks. Now, the organizers are aiming to support health-care workers for as long as possible.

Chen said she understands the uncertainty and fear people have around the pandemic, and felt like she had to do something to help.

"People in China suffered greatly during (COVID-19), including many family members of local Chinese-Canadians. Many of us, including myself, experienced the lockdown during the (SARS outbreak) in China," Chen said. "We know that feeling of helplessness and uncertainty. Winnipeg is our home, we want to take care of our home and help everyone fight (COVID-19)."

Chen said the initiative donates roughly 50 meals per hospital visit. So far, 20 restaurants and organizations have signed up to help, many of whom are struggling to survive during the economic downturn.

They put their lives at risk for us. We want to show kindness and positive energy

The initiative has delivered meals to Grace Hospital and the Health Science Centre, delivering meals for the morning, afternoon and night shift workers. The organization is looking to expand their reach, as more restaurants offer their services.

The meals include dishes from Chinese, Vietnamese, Kurdish and Syrian restaurants.

Hadad’s family owns and operates Maggi’s Syrian Food in Transcona. She said this is a small way they can help the community survive this pandemic.

"Even though we are new (to Winnipeg), we are a part of Canadian society. We are so glad to help the people risking their lives," Hadad said. "For keeping us safe, we feel it’s our responsibility to support them, because we are a part of this (community)."

Hadad made about 50 hot lunches for Grace Hospital staff, which were delivered on April 15. The meals included ouzi, a Syrian dish made up of rice, spiced lamb and peas, as well as a salad.

Each meal also comes with a letter or a note, offering words of encouragement to health-care workers. This wasn’t part of Chen’s plan originally, this was something the restaurants started doing on their own.

Ali, the director for the Kurdish Initiative for Refugees, was surprised at how many restaurants stepped up.

"We (heard) from (Chen) that she wanted to coordinate something with all the refugee people," Ali said. "When we started organizing this, many people said ‘okay, we would love to be (a) part of this.’ We’re here to support our (heroes). They put their lives at risk for us. We want to show kindness and positive energy from our side (to) their side."

The initiative is looking for donations to help support these restaurants, who are donating food despite the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

To donate, check out their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/from-our-kitchens-to-our-heroes

To contact From Our Kitchens to Our Heroes, email kitchentohero@gmail.com


Justin Luschinski

Justin Luschinski
The Metro community journalist

Justin Luschinski was the community journalist for The Metro until May 2021.