By Harriet Sherwood | BRITAIN |
They start at 4am, chopping vegetables, mixing spices, soaking legumes, kneading chapati dough. Scores of volunteers are split into five teams working in shifts: cooking, packing, delivering, cleaning and answering the phones.
By the end of the day, at least 850 meals have been delivered to staff at five nearby hospitals, care homes and vulnerable individuals. Some days, the number hits 1,000.
For the Sikh community that – in normal times – worships at the Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara in Gravesend, Kent, this is simply an adaptation of langar, the communal kitchen that provides free food to the needy day in and day out.
The coronavirus crisis has extended the definition of those in need beyond the poor, homeless and lonely to frontline workers fighting the disease in long, exhausting shifts in hospitals and care homes. The gurdwara’s deliveries remove the need to bring food from home or grab a snack from a vending machine.
The work of the Gravesend gurdwara is just one example of a marathon, nationwide effort to feed the NHS over recent weeks. Restaurants and cafes forced to close to the public by the lockdown have created and delivered meals. Fast food chains have joined the effort, bakers have contributed sweet treats, and Deliveroo has pledged to make half a million meals available free to NHS workers in hospitals.
Churches, mosques, synagogues and other faith organisations are stepping up to support the NHS and other frontline workers. A church in Bath, St Michael’s Without, has turned over its space for a PPE production line. Exeter Cathedral’s Company of Tapisers has set aside their delicate stitching of vestments and kneelers to run up hospital scrubs. Christ Church in Anfield has teamed up with Liverpool football club to offer free meals to vulnerable and elderly people.
Mosques all over the country are taking Ramadan iftar meals to Muslims on the frontline and to people isolated at home. The United Synagogue is delivering “Shabbat in a box” to Jews in isolation or in need.
The Guru Nanak Darbar gurdwara started its NHS meal delivery service on 23 March , the daythe lockdown was announced. Then, eight meals were prepared and distributed. Now, demand is so great that the community has been forced to direct some requests to other gurdwaras.
Read the full story, ‘850 meals a day: UK faith groups in push to feed NHS’ (The Guardian, 7 May 2020), here.
British Sikh medical bravehearts (Asia Samachar, 21 April 2020)
Singapore Sikhs handle 12,000 veg meals weekly during pandemic (Asia Samachar, 5 May 2020)