How to Feed Crowds in a Protest or Pandemic? The Sikhs Know
Amidst the pandemic and riots of 2020 when nothing seems to be going particularly right, the Sikh community in the US is quietly going about feeding thousands of people in need for free, showing the better side of humanity. The article talks about the aspect of selfless service that is an essential part of Sikhism. Gurudwaras across the US which in the normal course of life serve free meals to devotees, almost all prepared by volunteers are obviously seeing few visitors during the lockdown. So, volunteers decided to use their large kitchen infrastructure to supply free meals to those in need due to the pandemic or those participating in the ongoing protests in the country.
“Since the pandemic began, soup kitchens have had difficulty keeping up with demand. Shuttered schools and even fine-dining restaurants are using their kitchens to prepare and serve hot meals. But few other places are as well positioned to handle the sheer scale of assistance required right now as the gurdwaras. Most have large, well-equipped kitchens, a steady stream of volunteers and no shortage of ingredients, thanks to regular donations from community members.
During the last annual Sikh Day Parade in New York, in April 2019, the Queens Village kitchen — which has a walk-in cooler, multiple freezers, 50-liter stockpots and a huge grill that can cook dozens of rotis at once — produced 15,000 meals in a single day.
…This is not just because the infrastructure is already there, said Satjeet Kaur, the executive director of the Sikh Coalition. “The call to action and the responsibility” for helping others is deeply entrenched in the Sikh way of life. Sikhs are expected to donate at least 10 percent of their time or income toward community service.
And it isn’t just about the service either. Supporting the protests also appeal to the community’s principle of fighting for justice.
“It is our duty to stand up with others to fight for justice,” said Ms. Kaur, a graduating senior at the University of California, Irvine. “Langar at its core is a revolution — against inequality and the caste system,” the antiquated hereditary class structure in South Asia, which Sikhism has always rejected.…Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, a volunteer and a member of the Norwich Board of Education, noted that historically, many Sikhs in India have been killed by the police while fighting for their civil rights.
At many gurdwaras in the United States, most of those who show up for langar meals are Sikhs. Now that they are catering to a broader population, menus have changed to suit different tastes. In the Seattle area, volunteers at the Gurudwara Sacha Marag Sahib are making pasta and tacos in addition to rice and dal. At the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das in Española, N.M., meals have included enchiladas and burritos.
…The process is highly systematized. The cooking team shows up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare meals based on previous days’ numbers, as well as requests from senior centers, hospitals and nursing homes; another team packs the meals into microwave-safe boxes; and the third distributes them at the drive-through and other locations. The gurdwara shares information about the free meals through regular posts on large Facebook groups for local residents.”