Sikh temples across the globe have been offering free meals to anyone who goes to them as a key part of Sikh religion – a concept of selfless service to the community called “Seva.
The Sikh community in Riverside, California had been practicing Seva by providing 800 to 1,000 meals each Sunday in pre-pandemic days.
However, due to the pandemic restrictions set to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, they decided to serve food out front via drive through instead.
During the early days of the pandemic, Gurpreet Singh and other members of the Riverside Sikh community organized efforts to provide food assistance in addition to the work they have been doing for years.
“When the pandemic came along, the Sikh temples were shutting down, and that didn’t seem right. At times of dire need, you don’t close down, you open up,” Singh said in an interview.
“We thought, ‘we’ll run it two or three days a week — good deed done, pat on the back,” he added.
Singh quickly realized the scope of the problem the very first week they started their drive – through, as “the lines got crazy.”
“Hunger has no days off, so there’s no way we can serve less often than every day.”
Vaneet Singh, one of the members of the Sikh community in Memphis, Tennessee noted how the practice of Seva “so engrained in our faith, it’s everywhere.”
“We believe that to serve others, to help others, is a key to who we are,” he said.
“The concept of the common kitchen is you sit together on the floor and eat together — you are all equal in God’s place.”
Meanwhile in St. Louis, Missouri, Deb Bhatia and the volunteers of his non-profit, the Sikhs of STL organized similar efforts at local shelters.
“We started driving for hours downtown, bringing people food,” Bhatia said.