The Yukon’s health minister says he has no intention of stopping a downtown Whitehorse soup kitchen from serving food volunteers cook at home.
“We’re going to look at other jurisdictions across Canada just to see what sort of regulations or legislation they have in place that would permit people bringing pre-cooked food from home and then be able to serve it at an establishment like a soup kitchen,” Mike Nixon said today.
The soup kitchen, run out of the CYO Hall in the Sacred Heart Cathedral, has been in Whitehorse for two decades.
When health inspectors did their annual inspection this past fall, church officials were told home-cooked food was not allowed. Right now, Yukon regulations say cooking has to happen in a commercially-certified and inspected kitchen.
There is a kitchen there that fits the bill. Sometimes it’s used for dinners and other events, but most of the soups and stews served on the weekend are made by volunteers at home. Those kitchens are outside the control of the Health Department.
Health spokesperson Pat Living couldn’t say how long that regulation has been in place or how come the issue is just coming up now.
She said the fact that food was being made in homes only came to light during this most recent inspection.
Father David Reilander said there’s never been any talk of shutting down the soup kitchen. The department has been willing to work with his staff from the very beginning.
“In fact they said, ‘It’s a good thing you’re doing, we don’t want to see this stop.’
The church has been granted an extension until April to continue serving home-cooked food while officials work on any regulation changes that need to happen.
“In other jurisdictions what they do is, any food coming from home has to be preheated to a certain temperature prior to it being served,” Nixon said.
“So that’s just one example that we’re going to look at and that makes sense. If there was any sort of issues with the food then heating it back up to a certain temperature would certainly solve any of those issues.”
There has never been any illnesses reported from the soup kitchen’s food, the department said.
The soup kitchen has 19 crew who volunteer on a rotational basis on weekends cooking and serving soup.
They serve between 80 and 110 people every Saturday and Sunday.
Concerns have been spurred this week over the issue, after an open letter written by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition warned that volunteers may no longer be able to prepare home-cooked food for the soup kitchen.
Reilander said he thinks the community has overreacted a bit to what’s been going on.
“They have to do their job, we have to do our job, and I think you have to find a balance between feeding the poor and also the regulations. Because the regulations are there for a reason.”
Nixon said the work done out of the soup kitchen is important.
“It’s about providing nutritional meals for people that may be seen as vulnerable and what better way to do that then having the community serve the community.”
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