Spreading joy and nourishment: Mount Sinai donates surplus food to those in need

At Mount Sinai Hospital, Food Services Supervisor Cynthia Tarantino (left) and Cook Philippe Deschênes present donated food trays to Madeleine Fangue, a Family Case Worker at the Relais Côte-des-Neiges community group.
At Mount Sinai Hospital, Food Services Supervisor Cynthia Tarantino (left) and Cook Philippe Deschênes present donated food trays to Madeleine Fangue, a Family Case Worker at the Relais Côte-des-Neiges community group.

 In partnership with non-profit group, hospital shares kosher food with Muslim families

The holidays are a time for sharing, and Mount Sinai Hospital is showing the way: It’s donating surplus food from its kitchen to help families in need.

The gesture grew from a partnership between CIUSSS West-Central Montreal and La Tablée des Chefs, an award-winning organization whose Food Recovery program connects donors of unused food with local community groups. Mount Sinai, the first CIUSSS site to participate, was teamed with Relais Côte-des-Neiges.

Ahlme El Hariri, an Educator at Relais Côte-des-Neiges, helps prepare food baskets for families in need at the centre.
Ahlme El Hariri, an Educator at Relais Côte-des-Neiges, helps prepare food baskets for families in need at the centre.

Thanks to the initiative, families who rely on the group’s food bank will be able to enjoy nutritious meals over the holidays.

“This is a way to avoid food waste and give back to the community,” says Anouk Azuelos, Coordinator of Food Services for our CIUSSS.

The first donation at Mount Sinai in early December offered a heartwarming snapshot of communal sharing. Inside the bustling kitchen, staff members carefully removed aluminium food trays from freezers and handed them to representatives of Relais Côte-des-Neiges, who gratefully accepted them before loading them into a car to take to their Victoria Ave. centre.

The community group says Mount Sinai’s kosher food is especially appreciated because a large percentage of its clients are Muslims who eat halal. (The level of strictness in preparing kosher food is acceptable to many Muslims who eat halal).

“This is a big help, and it’s going to make a lot of families happy,” says Jocelyne Martin, Director of Relais Côte-des-Neiges. Many clients are recent arrivals in Canada, including asylum seekers, she says. “Fridges are empty. Requests for food come in non-stop.”

“This new partnership will help families put food on the table.”

Jocelyne Martin, Director of Relais Côte-des-Neiges
Moshe Banoon, Head of Food Services at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Moshe Banoon, Head of Food Services at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Food waste is kept to a minimum at our CIUSSS. Each kitchen within Food Services, part of the Logistics directorate, uses computer software to precisely calculate the quantities of ingredients required for each meal and recipe. However, unforeseen changes are inevitable in any large healthcare facility. For example, uneaten food can become available if a patient is unexpectedly discharged or has to skip breakfast due to a blood test. Food might also be left over if fewer customers than expected from the community drop in to eat in the cafeteria.

Now, this food is being preserved and set aside to feed others. At Mount Sinai, dishes including chicken curry, veal stew, green beans and turkey meat loaf were packaged and frozen following strict hygiene rules. The process involved numerous staff members, from cooks to cafeteria attendants to Food Services Supervisors Monika Poirier and Cynthia Tarantino.

“It was a collective effort,” says Moshe Banoon, Head of Food Services at Mount Sinai and Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Centre. He says the gesture of collaboration between the Côte Saint-Luc facility and the Muslim clients of the community group offers a hopeful symbol during this period of global turmoil.

“At a time of conflict in the world, communities here are coming together and helping each other,” Mr. Banoon says.

Ms. Tarantino, who was on hand for the donation, agrees. “Food is nourishment, but it’s also a way of connecting people,” she says. “The beautiful thing about food is that regardless of religion, race or culture, it brings everybody together.” Ms. Azuelos says she hopes to extend the initiative to other facilities in the CIUSSS.