Calgary Sikhs step up to feed Calgarians during pandemic

Calgary’s Sikh community is finding lots of ways to keep Calgarians fed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, community members have been gathering food donations and distributing food and meals to those in need.

Volunteers have been feeding long-haul truck drivers at truck stops, dropping off food hampers to people in isolation, providing hot meals to people in need at the Sikh temple and organizing drive-thru meals.

They now have a food bank set up at the Dashmesh Culture Centre in northeast Calgary to help people running into financial difficulties.

A huge trailer outside the Dashmesh Culture Centre is packed with everything from breakfast cereals to South Asian cooking essentials.

The Sikh food bank is the latest in a string of initiatives to help feed and support Calgarians during the pandemic. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Organizers say it’s open to any Calgarian who needs help and the cultural centre has 16,000 active members waiting to help.

“It’s been busy and we’ve been serving since March 18. Every day we see demand increasing,” said Amanpreet Singh Gill, president of the Dashmesh Culture Centre.

“When we started the [food bank], within a week we had a full trailer.”

The Sikh faith is well-known for running community kitchens and dining halls at its places of worship, called gurdwaras. They uphold the tradition of langar, which involves offering free daily vegetarian meals to visitors, regardless or religion or ethnicity.

“This is a basic principle of Sikhism, a basic pillar. You’ve got to feed the community and you’ve got to be there whenever the time comes,” said Gill.

People can make donations to the Dashmesh Culture Centre food bank or access help through the centre, located on Martindale Boulevard N.E. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

“Anyone can come here, everyone is welcome. It’s not just for the northeast community. Whoever is in need we are here to help,” Gill said.

The cultural centre just won a Northern Lights Award from the provincial government. The awards recognize volunteers in the community.

Gill said his community will be ready to help as long as there’s a need.

People can donate or access food at the Dashmesh Culture Centre, located at 135 Martindale Boulevard N.E.

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