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Halifax gurdwara serving hot meals to more people in need

Higher food costs mean relying on Sikh community kitchen run by volunteers

3 min read
Two men with turbans standing in front of a kitchen.
caption From left to right volunteer Lakhvinder Singh and priest Mandeep Singh at the Maritime Sikh Society in Halifax.
Natalia Tola

The Punjabi community in Halifax is feeding more people in need through its community kitchen or langar at the gurdwara.

Numbers have shot up “exponentially” in the last three to four years, said Banpreet Singh.

He’s a volunteer at the gurdwara on Parkhill Road, near Frog Pond. It’s run by the Maritime Sikh Society.

He said they feed 200 people on weekdays. This number increases to 400 on weekends. On religious occasions 2,000 people are fed.

With rising food costs, the number of people going there for vegetarian Indian meals is expected to grow. 

“The basic definition of langar is a communal kitchen where people can eat free of cost,” said Singh. “We serve everybody regardless of their age, sexual orientation, ethnic background, religion.” 

It’s embedded in Sikhism: everyone shares a communal feast and there’s no table or chairs. They eat on the floor.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji started it more than 500 years ago.

“The idea is bringing everyone down to the same level by sitting together and sharing food,” said Singh. 

caption Large pot and plate in the gurdwara kitchen.
Natalia Tola

The gurdwara has been here since 1978. It expanded, opening a two-storey building last year to serve Nova Scotia’s 1,000 Sikhs. 

Everyone who enters the gurdwara is expected to perform seva, or the act of selfless giving. 

Langar is volunteer-driven. Singh estimates there are 10-12 people cooking on a normal day. On weekends this number grows to 30 and even 40. 

Higher food costs have also attracted people from different cultures and backgrounds, Singh said. The goal is to provide meals for them all.

Glass bottles with spices on the inside.
caption Ingredients stored at the Gurdwara for cooking.
Natalia Tola

Singh said food waste is rare. 

“Most of the time if there is an extensive surplus … we donate it to students or volunteers,” he said, adding the gurdwara also feeds underprivileged families and supports shelters across Halifax Regional Municipality.

Interfaith Harmony Halifax co-chairperson Ahmad Almallah said food has an undeniable power to bring people together. 

“When we allow religious communities to welcome others who are not necessarily their friends to their tables to share a meal together, it communicates a strong message: We are all part of the family of humanity,” said Almallah.

He added that when individuals explore different religious spaces, it broadens their perspective.

People who enter the gurdwara are expected to remove their shoes and socks, cover their head and wash their hands. They can’t be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Volunteers begin serving tea and biscuits at 6 a.m. Afterwards, langar remains open from 9:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.

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About the author

Natalia Tola

Natalia Tola was born and raised Ecuador. She is pursuing a four year Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) with a minor in Contemporary Studies....

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