Chris from Siloam Mission is My Food Hero


As a participant in the Canadian Food Experience (began June 7 2013. As the participants share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.),  I have been asked to declare a local food hero and the gentleman that I would like to point the spotlight on is Chris of Siloam Mission.

I have heard it said that we are all two paycheques away from homelessness.  The causes of homelessness are numerous (this excerpt is from Siloam’s 2012 Annual Report):

…poverty, migration, famine, unemployment, prejudice, mental illness, urbanization – all of which we can find in Winnipeg.There is no doubt that homelessness negatively affects children and families. Children in families experiencing homelessness are more likely to have health, emotional, academic and behavioural problems. Many have been exposed to violence and trauma. Families experiencing homelessness are more likely to suffer separation, and homeless mothers are more likely than other mothers to experience major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and drug abuse.

For the last 25 years, Siloam Mission has been seeking to address the needs of the less fortunate – homeless
persons and families – in Winnipeg.

I have been aware of Siloam’s good works for years but even more so now that “The Frenchman” (our youngest daughter’s beau) has been hired as one of the few paid staff members.  He continually told me about his new friend Chris who head’s up Siloam’s Kitchen and their meal provision program.  I volunteered at Siloam Mission this past February so that I could meet Chris face to face and learn more about his passion for Winnipeg’s homeless.  As I arrived, the breakfast service was just commencing.  Because of the cold, Chris wanted all of the patrons to have a bowl of something hot so porridge was served with toast, peanut butter and fruit.  Hot coffee is unending.  Chris thought that French toast would be nice for the next day and he happily mentioned that there are times when he can serve the patrons scrambled eggs or omelets from Burnbrae Farms. I met the good folks from Burnbrae at a bloggers event in Toronto; they will be happy to know what joy their donations bring.

I was on lunch detail with the rest of the crew.

On the menu was a choice of turkey noodle or mushroom potato soup, a slice of pizza (generously provided by Little Ceasars pizza), a freshly made ham sandwich and a sweet.  In the summer months, Siloam substitutes the soup with a salad.  One of the dessert choices was my favourite Mennonite treat of blueberry platz.   I was tasked with slicing the ham and then took my place on the sandwich assembly line.

The other volunteers that I worked with that morning were an enthused bunch and kept remarking how they couldn’t believe that they were in a “soup” kitchen and not a multi-starred restaurant.  This is what I was most impressed with.  Chris could cut cooking corners and used packaged stocks filled with additives and excessive salt but he painstakingly made the stock from scratch to ensure the quality.  In addition, from scratch cooking is truly the best use of food and monetary donations and Chris and the folks at Siloam must intrinsically know this.  Of course, “from scratch” methods cannot occur every day, but as often as Chris has the volunteer resources to do so.  Everything is carefully used BUT when I say everything, quality is never compromised.  A volunteer preparing the lettuce for the sandwiches asked Chris if she should use the lettuce if it was discolouring and he responded “the rule of thumb is-we don’t serve it to our patrons, if we wouldn’t eat it ourselves”.

Another of my tasks was slicing up pulled turkey for the soup.  Chris explained how the roasting of 150 turkeys has already commenced for Easter dinner (update: they already have all their turkeys cooked for Thanksgiving 2013) and that every single bit of the bird is utilized.   Turkey necks and wings had been roasted the day before to make the nutritious (and tasty) stock.  When the sandwich line was cleared away, Chris began a fresh pasta making session.

All of these steps went in place, to produce this delicious and nutritious soup.  Why go to this much trouble?  Because food=love and the patrons of Siloam are loved beyond their wildest imaginations.

Our Frenchman and Chris.

Kath’s quote: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” –Matthew 25:35


Love-that is all.

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