‘That’s not a meal’: frustration and concerns raised over food given to Manitoba wildfire evacuees

WINNIPEG — Disappointment and frustration from First Nations evacuees in Winnipeg have prompted a man in the city to hit the kitchen and start cooking traditional meals for evacuees.

Around 3,000 people from four First Nations in Manitoba (Little Grand Rapids, Pauingasssi, Bloodvein and Berens River) have been evacuated and are staying in hotels in Winnipeg and Brandon.

The Canadian Red Cross told CTV News that it ensures evacuees are provided three meals a day at each hotel.

“Meals are provided by either the hotels themselves or caterers and that is coordinated by the Red Cross. Plus, the Red Cross has snacks available for evacuees at our reception centre,” Jason Small, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross, told CTV News in an email.

But evacuees are raising concerns about the food, which some say fail to meet standards.

Beans and a hotdog is one of several dishes that evacuees tell CTV News they have been given during their stays.

“It is kind of disgusting because that’s not a meal. There is nothing really healthy about it,” said Keith Proulx. “It was so maddening to see that is what they are expecting people to eat.”

Small said the Canadian Red Cross has received complaints about the food from some of the evacuees.

“The Red Cross speaks regularly to community leadership, who will bring concerns from their members to us. Evacuated individuals will also directly inform our team of problems with the support we are providing, including meals,” he said.

“We are always working to better the support we provide, so if there is a problem we hear about, we will work quickly to remedy the situation.”

But some people aren’t waiting around for the Red Cross.

After being approached by some CFS agencies, Proulx has been baking and cooking food for elders and evacuees stuck in Winnipeg hotels.

On Friday, he handed out around 150 bowls of soup, around 400 pieces of bannock and water to evacuees. He said the soup and bannock is not only nutritious and filling – for many people who are used to more traditional diets – it is comfort food.

“A lot of elders, they’re not used to this city food and take out, and they don’t like it,” Proulx told CTV News.

“You’re stuck here – you’re stuck and you want a little piece of home.”

He said the food has been welcomed by elders and evacuees.

“I’m from the north – I know how to make a good pot of soup and some bannock.”

He said there has been a lot of comments and frustration on social media about the food being given to evacuees. He urged people to get involved and help out.

“I wish there was more people to help,” he said. “All these hotels are full of people and they need some comfort. They need to be shown that there is people that care.”

Keith said he plans to keep on cooking and baking for the evacuees. 

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