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REGINA/MOOSOMIN: When Barb Neufeld heard that the Eastern Saskatchewan Pioneer Lodge was chosen to receive this year’s nutrition services People’s Choice Award, she cried.

“Home is where the heart is, and this is your home, so it should be our home, too,” she told the lodge residents as she accepted the award on Thursday.

The award was a big part of Communities Day in Saskatchewan, where the Canadian Union of Public Employees Health Care Council and CUPE Saskatchewan teamed up to recognize the health care facilities in Saskatchewan that are going the extra distance to make their community healthier, starting in the kitchen.

Nine health care facilities were given awards in the categories of Food Excellence, for serving hot, nutritious meals prepared on-site; Supporting the Local Community, for buying local products to stock their kitchens; and for the People’s Choice Award, for one facility’s dietary staff who have gone above and beyond.

“It’s like you’re at home,” said Sherry Richter, head cook at the Broadview Union Hospital and chairperson of the Health Care Council Food Excellence Committee. “Everything revolves around the kitchen here.”

“We’ve done a good job here, and we feel really good about that,” added Nutrition staff person Lou Richter, who said that the Broadview Union Hospital staff often prepare special meals for choosy children or patients with requests.

The pride CUPE’s health care workers put into food preparation was obvious, as CUPE Heath Care Council President Gordon Campbell and CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham, along with CUPE Food Excellence representative Vicky O’Dell, toured the province on Communities Day handing out certificates. In each facility, CUPE members glowed as they received their awards.

“I know they get very little recognition for their work,” said Campbell. “Today, we want to change that.”

Graham agreed. “Our health care system is a good one—the best,” he told a group of award recipients. “And it’s good because of the people, like you, who make it the best.”