SLMHC’s Miichim kitchen welcoming donations
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre (SLMHC) has been offering traditional foods to its patients once a week, aiming to aid in their healing by delivering a homely environment through their Miichim, the Ojibway/Anishinaabe word for food.
SLMHC’s Executive Lead for Indigenous Collaboration and Relations, Kathy Loon shared, “Miichim is an important part of the daily lives of many Anishinaabe people and is an important link between health, culture, and identity. Eating a comforting bowl of moose stew cooked traditionally the way their Kookums (grandmas) make it, supports our patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Traditional foods can aid in healing by creating a comfortable and familiar environment for patients while in care at our hospital or our long-term care facility. Through food is culture… there’s different cultures in this world and everyone should be allowed to eat their own foods especially when they are sick and vulnerable.” She added, “Our hospital is unique in that we are one in only five facilities in Canada that currently are able to serve traditional foods.”
The Miichim Kitchen program is sustained by donations by local hunters, gatherers, outfitters and the Ministry of Natural Resources that donate their confiscated fish and wild game, shared Loon. SLMHC’s Traditional Program is always seeking donations of wild game or other items. Loon shared that these donations may include foods such as moose, small game, fish, beaver, geese, ducks, partridge, or other waterfowl, local blueberries and wild rice. “In addition, we have had significant donations from local fishing tournaments such as the Walleye Weekend held here in Sioux Lookout and the Lac Seul Walleye Cup in Ear Falls, which we are sincerely grateful for,” she added.
Loon shared that the Miichim is prepared considering that each meal fits the majority of their nutritional diets. Patients that may wish to keep to their traditional diets on a daily basis can pick from a selection of pre-made frozen Miichim meals. “We have worked diligently to acquire the necessary legislative exemptions in order to serve uninspected meats to our patients,” states SLMHC’s website.
SLMHC has been operating its traditional kitchen since 2010, which is separate from the facility’s main dietary department. Loon shared that their recipe development took on many variations before mutual agreement and acceptance. She added, “Initially, Kokums and Elders were brought from the northern communities to assist in testing traditional recipes and prepare Miichim foods. A Kookum’s cookbook was developed as a result of this with recipes from our neighboring communities.
“The vision from the start was to carry on cooking traditional foods, as had happened at the older Zone hospital. When the new, revised traditional program was developed here at SLMHC, the recipes came from input from Elders, trialing recipes in the Miichim kitchen, working with the cook/ dietitian, and taking feedback from clients via surveys.”
SLMHC has been part of a cohort and the Indigenous Foodways project through a national program called Nourish, continually working with other Indigenous advisors and health care providers across the country to find ways to raise awareness of the importance of traditional food, shared Loon. The Nourish program integrates patient experience, culture and community well-being to deliver improved healthcare through their projects.
SLMHC worked with Nourish in 2019 to create a short documentary showcasing the power of traditional foods and show that traditional food is safe to serve, as well as essential in the recovery and well-being of patients in a health care setting, shared Loon. This film was shot over the course of a week in Slate Falls First Nation and Sioux Lookout. Those interested in watching the Miichim documentary, and learning more about making donations to the Miichim program, can visit slmhc.on.ca/miichim.
“Because we solely depend on donations to keep Miichim operating, we deeply appreciate donations and encourage readers and community members to connect with us if they have traditional foods they would like to donate. To make a donation, contact us at (807) 737-6561, or [email protected], and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have,” Loon concluded.