This year marks the 5th Annual Stone Soup Fundraiser. The Stone Soup Fundraiser serves to raise money to support the programs of the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba. The council is a volunteer organization that lends support to schools that run breakfast and other feeding programs in their schools. (what goes into a program can be found here). At present there are 165 schools* that receive support split evenly between Winnipeg and other areas of the province.
*I was informed after publication that the number of schools helped has now reached over 200.
The fundraiser is Wednesday, March 22, 11:15 am to 1:15 pm, Manitoba Hydro Place, 360 Portage Avenue. Tickets are $10,00 which let you taste three soups along with bread, water and fruit being available. I have a noon service so I’ll be there as soon as it opens at 11:15 am. Look for the guy in the dog collar and come and say hello.
I’ve taken in the Fundraiser for the last couple of years. I wrote about my experience back in 2015. The Council is something I believe in because it offers not only healthy food alternatives, but it teaches children skills in the kitchen, and brings them together to eat.
This year, Viola Prowse, head of the council, got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in writing something about the event. I happily said yes. I was sent a list of the restaurants involved and noticed right off that there was a fair bit of turnover from previous years. It turns out this is in part because there are so many restaurants and/or chefs wanting to be part of this event.
Stone Soup: Adding to the Pot
In the Stone Soup story, village members are convinced to bring ingredients that bring a unique flavour to the soup. Similarly the restaurants and organizations that provide soup for the fundraiser bring unique stories along with their individual soups.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to talk with two of the participants. The first was Wayne Aastrom who is chef for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The second was Larissa Webster owner of The Frenchway Cafe, and a board member of the Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba.
Aastrom’s food story begins in Penticton where he grew up. His grandparents had orchards and his earliest food memories are of being in the orchard. The fresh, local ingredients he found there have informed his cooking style ever since.
After training as a chef in Victoria, Aastrom moved to Winnipeg about 10 years ago. He has cooked at Balmoral Hall, and South Beach Casino among other places. One of the things he discovered along the way is that he enjoys,and has a gift, cooking for children.
Nutrition is a challenge for Aastrom. The RWB employs a nutritionist on staff, and each time Aastrom creates a new menu(4 times a year), the first thing he does is takes it to the nutritionist so that the two of them can work on it. The two of them also work with the dancers to make sure they get the proper meals and snacks they need. Occasionally they run across dancers who have special dietary needs and that means Aastrom needs to get creative to give them the nutrients they need and food they enjoy.
Aastrom’s connection to CNCM is through people connected to the RWB. Last year he was asked some questions prior to the event, and as soon as he learned about the fundraiswer his response was, “how can we get involved.” Look for Wayne next Wednesday and take a moment to say hello.
Childhood Nutrition the French Way:
Webster’s story is different from Aastrom’s. She grew up on the western, processed diet. Fish fingers, french fries, and other frozen food. It was as an adult, living in France with her chef husband Olivier, that she entered into a new world of food.
Webster’s son started school in France and one of the things that caught her attention was that her son’s school lunches were proper three course meals, not cafeteria choices slung onto a tray. Another thing that caught her attention was how meals in France were times to enjoy the company of family and friends and would often stretch to three or four hours.
Coming back to Canada she and her husband opened The Frenchway Cafe in 2008. Originally on Academy Road, they moved to the present Lilac location in 2011, taking over the space that had housed Bread and Circuses. Like Aastrom’s approach at the RWB, The Frenchway relies on fresh, local ingredients and home made food wherever possible
Enjoying a leisurely meal with friends is at the heart of The Frenchway’s philosophy. Webster laid stress on the fact that at the restaurant the focus was on the diners. Making sure that the meal consisted not only of good food, but also of plenty of time to enjoy it.
Webster and The Frenchway have been part of the Stone Soup Fundraiser since it began five years ago. One of the appeals of the CNCM to Webster is the fact that it taught children skills. These skills can then be taken home, allowing for the possibility that the kitchen becomes a place where children and adults can spend time together.
Webster and I only spent a portion of time talking about the CNCM and the Fundraiser but it passing she mentioned something the principal at Nelson Mcintyre Collegiate had mentioned about what the breakfast program meant to the school.
I forgot what the comment was, but I happened to run into a friend of mine who teaches at Nelson Mac. In response to my questions about the program I found out that it does a great job in several areas. It’s an inclusive program that brings students from various backgrounds together. Teachers also are welcome and come. In addition to feeding the students, students also do a lot of the work required to make the program run. This program sounds like it is doing a real good job of fulfilling the CNCM mandate for school programs.
Stirring the Pot:
The RWB and The Frenchway Cafe are just two of the dozen participants taking part in next Wednesday’s fundraiser. Every year there is at least one school whose student’s participate. This year it is Argyle Alternative High School. Also, the students from the Red River College Culinary Arts Program are regular participants. Another interesting group participating are the chefs from 17 Wing.
Other restaurants involved are: Resto 12 from the Radisson Hotel downtown. 529 Wellington. Sous Sol, on Osborne Street. The Clay Oven Express, which is located in the Hydro Building. Inferno’s Bistro, Des Meurons location, and Feast Cafe Bistro.
Finally, on the list is Chocolatier Constance Popp, who will be offering a chocolate based soup. Tickets for the event are $10. and get you tickets to try 3 different types of soup along with bread, water, and soup. You’ll also get a ballot to vote for your favourite soup. Donations of $20.00 or over are eligible for a tax receipt. Bring a healthy appetite and $40.00 and you can try all 12 soups. They will all be very good.