Inspired by the Sikh tradition of langar, Ravi and Jacquie Singh have developed a mobile version of the traditional langar hall.
The Sikh tradition of langar is when the community kitchen of the temple provides vegetarian meals to its visitors, regardless of caste, gender, race or economic status. The practice began in the 1500s.
“The langar system at the gurdwaras is meant to teach us sharing,” Ravi Singh said to NBC. “But the real sharing happens when we go out into the community and go where the need is.”
Ravi and Jacquie have long volunteered at the local gurdwara serving langar to the community. In 2008, the couple visited India’s Golden Temple where they saw almost 80,000 people being served and fed daily, with double the amount on weekends and holidays. Inspired by the temple’s great reach, Ravi and Jacquie wanted to expand the reach of their own gurdwara’s langar in Los Angeles. Thus, Share-A-Meal, the mobile langar was created.
Run by volunteers, the food truck serves traditional Sikh vegetarian meals like roti, rice, chana, and vegetables served burrito -style. Volunteers make about 1,000 meals every week to distribute to the homeless living in the Los Angeles area. Recipients can choose between a mild or spicy meal along with water and some non-perishable snacks if they want.
The Singhs originally hired someone to prepare the langar and teach the couple how to cook the traditional meals but Jacquie now does the cooking from scratch. Today the program is funded through grants, public donations, the Singh’s personal donations, and their own non-profit, Khalsa Peace Corps.
The couple has joined forces with the University of Southern California and students now volunteer as “humanitarian aid interns” while receiving federal work-study funds. Besides students, the Singhs have worked with many other religious organizations that volunteer their time and donate to the cause, like the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove, California. Most recently, members of the Islamic Society prepared and distributed food on Skid Row during Ramadan.
“Our volunteers are from all faiths, all races, all ethnicities, you name it,” Ravi said in an interview with NBC. “That shows the compassion that’s common to all of us.”
Volunteers get an eye-opening look at the homelessness situation in Los Angeles as well as learning what it means to give back.
“It’s a platform to teach compassion,” Ravi told NBC.
Clearly, working for Share-A-Meal The truck as done just as much for the people working it as it has for the ones it serves.