MUHC adds bannock to menus for Indigenous patients

Marisela Amador, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL — The McGill University Health Center is offering bannock bread to its Indigenous patients.

Julie Woodfine, a psychiatric liaison nurse, says the idea arose after a 69-year-old Cree patient, George Matches, refused food offered to him by the MUHC because it reminded him of the boarding school where he had been brought up.

“I worked for many years in the North. I am somewhat familiar with First Nations food. [La bannique] is their traditional bread. It is also a comfort food.

Psychiatrist Marie-Josée Brouillette says she didn’t realize that even food could be so evocative for some people.

“We felt bad. I didn’t know food could be so loaded, she says. I had no idea that attempting to feed a patient could create an experience that reminded them of their trauma. »

Ms. Woodfine says she consulted with Aboriginal interpreters before approaching management to suggest including traditional foods on the menu. She then contacted Maryse Fournier, the food services manager, to find the perfect bannock recipe.

“We called on our suppliers who were very kind. They shared some of their recipes. We also contacted the Thunder Bay, Ontario area hospital, which had already added bannock to their menu. We are the only hospital in Quebec to do so,” says Ms. Fournier.

Food Services studied 10 recipes, analyzing the ingredients, dietary restrictions and equipment needed to make this bread. They also checked whether this food could be integrated into the large production of a hospital kitchen.

“We organized taste panels. We are lucky to have been able to count on the help of interpreters from the First Nations. Some psychiatrists also joined us. We tasted all the recipes and we all liked them,” says Ms. Fournier.

Several indigenous communities have their own version of bannock. For example, the Inuit call it « palauga » while it is called luskinkn among the Mi’kmaq.

For now, bannock is on the menu twice a week. Indigenous patients own it.

Nakuset, the founder of Resilience Montreal, a day shelter for Indigenous homeless people in Montreal, says the initiative is a step in the right direction.

According to her, many Aboriginal people fear being victims of discrimination and isolation when they have to be treated in Montreal.

“People who have to travel far to be hospitalized in Montreal can become very anxious and worried. So, let’s imagine if we can offer them bannock. It’s really comforting, because it’s a product of their culture. This could help make their hospitalization a positive experience.”

Mr. Matches died in January. His four daughters, Elizabeth, Dinah, June and Nancy Matches, told The Canadian Press they were honored by the MUHC’s decision to launch the experiment because of their father.

“We, the daughters of George Matches, would like to thank the MUHC for providing hospitalized Indigenous people with something to remind them of home.”

This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.

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