Indigenous restaurants launch holiday feast box campaign

Toronto-based ddcx Indigenous Kitchen and Catering will send healthy meals to Indigenous people in need

Indigenous chefs and restaurants are uniting in a national campaign to ensure Indigenous people in need receive healthy meals over the holidays amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winnipeg-based Feast Café Bistro owner executive chef Christa Bruneau-Guenther from Peguis First Nation and Indigenous Culinary of Associated Nations (ICAN) board member announced on November 27 the launch of Indigenous Feast Boxes, a fundraising campaign to support Indigenous chefs across Canada and their teams.

The meal kits will be provided to Indigenous families and community members in need during the fast-approaching holiday season. 

“This fundraising campaign is a way to secure jobs but also support families, elders, people with health risks and the larger community as a whole,” Bruneau-Guenther explained in a news release. “The holidays can be hard financially, but they are also a time of warmth and giving.”

The feast boxes are made with local ingredients and are inspired by chefs’ heritage and contemporary influences. The boxes serve four-to-six people with a minimum value of $50 each. They will either be partially or fully prepared, with recipes and cooking instructions that will provide details about the significance of the ingredients.

Joseph Shawana, the chef behind now-closed Kūkŭm Kitchen, is doing a box through his catering service ddcx Indigenous Kitchen and Catering with the support of Centennial College, where he teaches. Native Child and Family Services of Toronto will distribute the boxes locally.

“When COVID-19 hit and all our Taste of the Nations events got cancelled, we decided to redirect those efforts by funding $25,000 for the creation and distribution of Indigenous Feast Boxes,” Shawana, who is also ICAN’s board chair, said.

Shawana pointed out that people can visit, which offers profile, blogs, and recipes, as well as a map of Indigenous restaurants, food trucks, caterers and culinary experiences across Canada.

Indigenous Family Centre codirector Michele Visser explained what the experience of receiving a feast box is like.

“At a time when getting groceries is difficult, having all the necessary ingredients within one package made cooking a healthy meal so much easier,” Visser said. “The portions were generous! The stew was supposed to make six servings, but it was so rich and hearty that it served six for supper and there were leftovers for the next day. The ingredients that were chosen were mostly local and the recipe was simple and well explained which made the meal easy to reproduce at a later date.” 

In addition, Visser pointed out that it reminded people that they’re not alone, and provided them with both assistance and food education.

“For people who don’t know a lot about cooking, or who don’t have a large pantry of available items, these meal kits made cooking healthy, simple, and delicious,” she said.

The campaign has a goal of raising $60,000 to ensure Indigenous families across Canada receive a healthy warm meal during the holidays. This campaign, which runs until December 18, is being shared online at GoFundMe.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight. With files from NOW Magazine

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