Feed a Family: Sikh food halls open to all who need a hot meal

A religious community has spoken up about how it can help people struggling during the cost-of-living crisis to get a hot meal.

Huge pots of curry are prepared by some of the other volunteers
Huge pots of curry are prepared by some of the other volunteers

The continuing cost of living crisis has left many people wondering how to provide a hot meal for themselves and others.

With the cost of food rising along with rapid rises in the price of utilities, a lot of people have been left looking at whether to heat their homes or cook food, but one community has offered a solution for how to help.

The Sikh community is one of the largest in the region, with near 10 per cent of residents in Wolverhampton and nine per cent in Sandwell belonging to the Sikh faith and more than 30 gurdwaras being found across the towns and cities.

Some of the volunteers at the Langar hall prepare and cook rotis

One core principle of the Sikh faith is performing Seva, which means "selfless service", a principle started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji more than 550 years ago and best represented by the Langar hall, which means "free community kitchen", at each Gurdwara.

Feed a Family:

At the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick, which is one of the biggest in the country, a large group of volunteers are present each day to prepare and cook food at the Langar hall.

A common misconception about the Langar hall has been that only Sikhs are allowed to enter, which assistant treasurer Sarbjit Singh said was not the case and Langar was for anyone to come and take.

Sarbjit Singh poses with some of the servers at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara Langar kitchen

He said: "It is open to all faiths and communities and you are not questioned at the door when you enter the gurdwara.

"There is a code of conduct that you need to adhere by when you enter the hall, which includes not being under the influence of alcohol or drugs and not smoking cigarettes on site, as well as covering your head, taking off your shoes and washing your hands."

The volunteers at the hall will spend their time making the Indian flatbread roti, cooking different types of curries and sweet dishes and making sweets, all of which are vegetarian dishes.

People entering the hall will be able to take a tray and line up to ask for three types of curry, as many roti as needed and a sweet dish, as well as a cup of Indian tea and a glass of water, all served on metal trays.

A steady stream of people line up to take a meal at the Langar kitchen

Mr Singh said the principle of the kitchen was about coming together and eating as a community, with the menu changing each day, and said it was a vital service for a lot of people.

He said: "There will be trays and spoons on the side for you to take and the people serving will ask how much you want and what you want, then you go and sit down on the floor and eat with everyone as that symbolises everyone as equal.

"The menu is all vegetarian and differs each day, with cauliflower and potatoes one day and curries with lentils the next and different types of chappatis being made every day.

"We think this is very important as we are living in a crisis at present, with foreign students coming over and the community at large struggling, so we have said we are open for everyone to come and have a meal."

Mr Singh said people were welcome to come as often during the day as they needed to, whether that meant two or three times a day, and the Gurdwara also provided a warm space and a hot cup of tea for those who needed it.

Volunteers work to prepare rotis. Many volunteers give up hours of their time as part of Seva (selfless service)

He said: "Come to the Gurdwara as often as you need to and you will get a hot meal, a warm place and a nice cup of Indian tea.

"All the food is free and funded by our congregation from donations and contributions, as well as being topped up if necessary by the Gurdwara and entirely manned by volunteers, many of whom are retired or give up their time to help."

To find out more about Guru Nanak Gurdwara, go to facebook.com/GNGSmethwick

To find out which gurdwaras are in your area, go to worldgurudwaras.com/location/west-midlands

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