CHANDIGARH: As the coronavirus outbreak is tearing through the United States and the authorities there struggling to get a hold on it, the Sikh community is lending a helping hand by distributing food packets and dry ration to the people affected by the pandemic.
While speaking to this correspondent over the phone from New York, Himat Singh, Coordinator of American Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (East Coast) said, "The Sikh Center of New York Queen Village Gurdwara in last three weeks has prepared and packaged more than 70,000 home-cooked meals for Americans who are in self-isolation, senior citizens, hospital staff, patients and others."
"A few days ago the Sikh community was approached by office of the Mayor of New York for free food packets to be delivered to the coronavirus affected people. They requested us for 35,000 food packets. Accordingly, the meals were prepared and given to several distributing federal agencies and volunteers in the city who distributed them. The food was medically checked and approved by health authorities." he said.
The Gurdwara committee is now getting requests for meals from hospitals, senior citizens, homeless, people having trouble getting food at the supermarkets, the specially-abled, single parents and others. "We are supplying them 5000 free food packets once in two days. So far, in New York alone we have supplied approximately 70,000 food packets. We have also distributed 5,000 dry ration packets which include rice, lentils, flour and vegetables," he said.
Singh said, "Each food packet has only a vegetarian meal which consists of lentils, mixed vegetables, rice and for sweet dish kheer. The meal is packed in special food packets which can be heated in microwave ovens. While preparing the food in the gurdwara kitchen strict hygiene is observed and also social distancing is maintained besides face masks and gloves are worn by the volunteers who cook and pack the food. In New York, about 10-15 student volunteers, self-employed people and others are cooking the food."
"It is a 'Sewa’ (service)," he said and added that the donations come from the Sikh community and Gurudwaras. Also, NGOs such as the United Sikhs, Welfare Council of World Sikh Parliament and Sikh Coordination Committee East Coast are jointly running and funding this initiative.
"Our community is also serving in New Jersey, California, Boston, Oklahoma and a few other places by delivering food packets. So far, about one lakh of food packets and 40,000 dry ration packets have been delivered," Singh said.