Sikh temple expands free food sites to help hungry

VOLUNTEERS from Edinburgh’s Sikh temple are feeding hundreds of people a week at a free food station in the city centre amid growing ­evidence of increasing poverty in the Capital.

Guru Nanak's Free Kitchenon North Bridge. Picture: Neil HannaThe 

Guru Nanak's Free Kitchenon North Bridge. Picture: Neil Hanna
The Guru Nanak's Free Kitchenon North Bridge. Picture: Neil Hanna

The Guru Nanak Free Kitchen began operating a weekly stall on North Bridge in November, handing out hot food and drinks and also offering clothes.

The number of people using the food station has soared to around 300 and the volunteers have begun a second distribution point next to the Wellington statue in Princes Street.

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Organisers said they aim to be feeding up to 1000 people a week within the next few months.

The initiative comes as record numbers of people in the Capital are being forced to use food banks. Latest figures revealed earlier this week showed food banks run by charity the Trussell Trust helped 5836 people between April and September last year, including 1733 children – up more than three-fold on the year before.

Romy Singh, one of the organisers of the free kitchen, said there was clearly strong demand for the food they were handing out.

“It’s just getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “When we started we were feeding around 50 people, but now it is about 300.

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“It’s not just homeless people. There could be a single mother finding it hard to make ends meet, and if she wants to save money on a Wednesday she could come to us and eat – that’s what we’re there for.

“Our religion says it doesn’t matter how rich or poor everyone is, we should look after each other.

“Guru Nanak’s mission was to feed the homeless and needy – that’s the religion we’re taking forward.”

The food is cooked at the temple in Mill Lane, transferred to buffet trays and taken to the distribution point.

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A separate mobile team travels around Leith Walk and elsewhere, taking food to people who are sleeping rough on the streets.

Romy, 37, who was born and brought up in Edinburgh, said: “The food is all donated by our members.

“We have had lots of people coming to give us money to help with the work, including anonymous donations posted to the temple.

“With the help of donations and more volunteers, we hope to open even more stations. Our aim is to be feeding 1000 people a week.”

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This week’s menu at the free kitchen included potato and chickpea curry (aloo channa) and lentil soup with bread, with coffee donated by Starbucks.

Dharhamveer Singh, 32, a representative of the temple, said the Edinburgh initiative followed similar projects in other UK cities and was modelled closely on a programme in Doncaster.

“When we started we had five or six helpers, but now we have 25 or more,” he said.

“When we speak to the people getting the food they say they are overwhelmed. There is clearly a need for it.”