Guru Nanak Free Kitchen, Edmonton
The institution of langar was exalted by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Following Guru Nanak's "sacha sauda" (True investment), Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) across the globe provide free meals to all members of society, regardless of their race, class, caste, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or any other false social divisions, all of which are rooted in the false notion of duality. Everyone participating in the langar congregation sits together as equals, completely diminishing the hierarchical stratification of society. Inspired by Guru Nanak's mission to spread the teachings of universal Oneness, our team began to ponder ways in which we could do our part to uplift and empower our disenfranchised and disadvantaged brothers and sisters in the greater community. Our initial idea was to start a langar food truck, which we would use to deliver langar to Edmonton's inner city. After some consideration, the idea of "Seva Food Truck" was born.
The Seva Food Truck program began on February 14, 2014. Through Seva Food Truck, our team of volunteers delivered meals to students at low income schools in Edmonton's inner city. We modeled the meal program according to the langar format. We arranged for tables to be set up in the school gyms, and we dined collectively with the students. This meal program began to take the form of a mentorship program, and many lasting connections were made. Initially, we ran this program at Spruce Avenue School on a monthly basis for all ~300 students, and before we knew it we were running the program on a biweekly basis for both Spruce Avenue School and Calder School. The program was welcomed and enjoyed by teachers and students alike. Unfortunately, the program came to a halt in 2020 due to the gathering limitations caused by COVID-19.
While the Seva Food Truck program was running, the Sikhs for Humanity team also undertook a huge volunteer initiative in the summer of 2015. Through what became known as the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen (not to be confused with the program of the same name in Vancouver, although our mission is One), the Sikhs for Humanity team began serving langar to our homeless brothers and sisters in Edmonton's inner city. Every Saturday morning, langar for around 400 people was prepared and trucked in food carriers to downtown Edmonton, where our team would set up a tent and serve the meals. Initially, the tent was set up in front of the Bissell Center, but was then moved to the Hope Mission Center when the Bissell Center was being renovated. The langar program persisted on a weekly basis for about 9 months out of every year.
Due to the volume of our langar program, we needed a reliable and consistent kitchen space to fulfill our requirements. It was difficult to rely on other organizations to offer their space to us on a consistent basis. Out of this need, the idea for the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen was born, and construction was completed in the winter of 2021.
The Guru Nanak Free Kitchen is a 3-storey building located at 10919 97 Street NW, consisting of the kitchen and a gathering space on the main floor, and 4 residential rental suites on the upper floors. The rental income from the suites will subsidize the cost of running the kitchen for decades to come. The kitchen will serve as the heart of our langar program, where we will prepare meals for at risk youth at low income schools, and for women and children living in women's shelters in the greater Edmonton area. More details about our meal program will be shared once our partnerships with the schools and women's shelters are finalized.