Even on the coldest winter days, the Guru Nanak Free Kitchen serves food in a vacant lot at the corner of Dewdney Avenue and Angus Street in Regina.
A group of dedicated volunteers, including retiree Hem Juttla, show up every Sunday to help anyone in need.
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“We do not question anybody. Anyone who comes, we feed them,” said Juttla, who is a board member and spokesperson for the group.
“Our kitchen’s core values is every hungry mouth is the Lord’s treasury. All human beings belong to one race.”
Three members of Regina’s Sikh community started the initiative in August 2018. Juttla said right away, he wanted to help.
“I was looking for something to do which benefits the whole community and humanity. And this was the perfect thing,” he said.
The free kitchen had humble beginnings, with volunteers handing out bananas, apples and juice at a spot on 12th Avenue. But the group had to figure out what to do in winter.
“What we did is we had a small tent and then we said, ‘let’s go where the need is,’” he said.
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But the tent couldn’t withstand the prairie wind, so the kitchen rented a food truck. Since the cost is borne by volunteers and some donations, the group decided to invest in its own truck.
Juttla said they now prepare hot food at the Sikh temple in Regina, which grants volunteers access to the space early Sunday morning to prepare.
At its weekly spot in North Central, the kitchen serves between 400 to 600 people.
“In a perfect world, we’d like to have a facility, a place, where we can cook all the time,” he said.
“That is on the horizon maybe. The young guys who are involved with this thing will take the kitchen to that level.”
The Guru Nanak Free Kitchen stepped up its efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first five weeks, volunteers helped deliver groceries to people in need across the city.
On weekends, the truck went to other locations to serve Regina. The group also handed out free hand sanitizer and face masks.
“It was an important time where this had to be done,” he said.
“It was difficult to control crowds, we had distance — spray paint around the distance — and one function we had a lineup of almost 1.2 kilometres long.”
Juttla said the kitchen does not promote the Sikh religion, nor does it require patrons or volunteers to share the faith.
Learn more about how Juttla is Shaping Saskatchewan in the video above.