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Physicians step up to serve community in chili cookoff

A 36-hour stint walking the streets of Saskatoon penniless and homeless last spring continues to resonate with Dr. Annette Epp.

She spearheaded the Love Your Neighbour Chili Cookoff, held Feb. 14 at the Friendship Inn and hosted by the Saskatoon Regional Medical Association and the Saskatchewan Medical Association, in partnership with the Friendship Inn.

The idea to do something for the community came to Dr. Epp during the Sanctum Survivor Challenge, in which participants raise money for Sanctum Care Group by spending 36 hours homeless. Sanctum is Saskatchewan’s first hospice with respite and care for people who are living with or are affected by HIV. The challenge also raises funds for Sanctum 1.5, a hospice for pregnant women living with HIV that is under construction.

“I had 36 hours to walk in someone else’s shoes and see what it was like to have food insecurity,” said Dr. Epp. “It was a very short period of time, but it opened my eyes to the fact that if you don’t know where your next meal is going to be, it’s very hard to do anything else in your life.

“And being hungry is just not right in Canada,” she adds. “Poverty should not happen in our backyard and it does.”

She came to the Friendship Inn for a meal during the Sanctum challenge, and to her surprise found out it serves free breakfast and lunches, but not suppers. She decided to do something about that, if only for a day. A member of the SMA Board of Directors, Dr. Epp enlisted the support of physicians, their families, friends and co-workers, and the Saskatoon Regional Medical Association, for a chili cookoff, in which teams create their own versions of chili and patrons vote on the best one. The Hot Tamales (in red) were declared the winners.

“It was a very simple idea and it just evolved and it has been very heartwarming. I feel really humbled by the response of my colleagues and how they really do want to help.”

Goods and produce were supplied by the Co-op and Krown Produce, while Dr. Epp supplied the beef.

The Friendship Inn serves between 100 to 200 meals every day at breakfast, and 400 to 1,000 lunches. It is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. All meals are offered free of charge with no questions asked. The Friendship Inn is funded entirely through donations.

Here’s what other physicians thought about the Love Your Neighbour Chili Cookoff:

Dr. Patrice Pollock:

“We were at a social function, the Snowflake Ball that the SRMA puts on, and Annette Epp spoke about this event after her experience living on the street. All of us there overwhelmingly said we wanted to come and be a part of this because it was such an exciting and special thing to do. We’ve had an incredible morning and met some wonderful people. It’s been very heartwarming, fun and fantastic.”

Dr. Morris Marketin:

“It’s good to give back to the community and we know with our experiences with Sanctum Survivor that there’s no place to get supper on 20th Street after five, and so this is one day of the year where we’re going to provide one meal but it’s a start and hopefully it will kick-start something more.”


Dr. Jonathan Hay:

“I was asked to come here, and it’s a competition. We’re trying to be better than everyone else and I think we’re going to be! It’s something I don’t do often. Maybe physicians should come out more often. To my shame I don’t ordinarily do this. I’m too wrapped up in looking after other people instead of maybe people who need it more.”


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