Courtesy Photo

The Khalsa Care Foundation (KCF), based in Pacoima, is now serving free hot vegetarian meals to the Northeast San Fernando Valley community on Fridays and will continue to distribute them to residents throughout the COVID-19 emergency until further notice.

Members of KCF made the decision on April 9  to begin this ambitious venture and contacted the office of LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez. On the very next day, April 10, hundreds of cars were lined up to receive their meals.

In a partnership with Rodriguez’ office, which helped to spread the word to the community, the LAPD helped to route cars along Laurel Canyon leading to the center with a LAPD helicopter that flew overhead. An announcement was made from the helicopter to people in cars to be patient. When meals ran out, those at the center quickly pulled from the meals that were being prepared for the next day, and gave those meals away until food ran out. An announcement was made for people to return on the following Friday.

Underneath a pop-up tent with her name, Rodriguez, wearing a facemask and gloves, helped to bag meals along with volunteers from her office.

“Everyone deserves a warm meal during these extremely frightening times,” Rodriguez said. “Creating partnerships with the Khalsa Care Foundation to feed families is our community coming together on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.”

“Last Friday we served over 1,250 meals,” said Jaspreet Singh Sethi, a volunteer at KCF. “We had prepared food for about 700 families with less than 18 hours in advance of making the decision to do this. We weren’t sure how many people would come although we knew there is a need in Pacoima.”

This Friday, April 17, the Khalsa Care Foundation is preparing 3,000 meals in anticipation of the large numbers expected.

“The people who came for meals last week were of every age — families, seniors, from every background and ethnicity. Some people were disabled. Those without cars walked up to receive their meals,” Sethi said.

As drivers in each car pulled up, they let volunteers know how many meals were needed for their household and that’s what was handed to them. No advance sign-up is required or proof of address. Anyone who has a need for a warm meal can line up to receive one.

“If people ask for a few extra meals and it helps them for a couple of extra days that’s fine. We want to give,” Sethi said.

Food is purchased for the vegetarian meals through donations from the Sikh congregation.The meals have included a healthy warm meal of rice, and an Indian dish with potatoes, peas and carrots. Many Sikhs are vegetarians and believe that God is in all living things, and they have a devotion to service.

”We believe in service to the community, selfless service to humanity is one of the fundamental principles of the Sikh religion and the Khalsa Care Foundation. It’s our duty to provide without expecting anything in return,” Sethi said.

KCF is currently providing at least 5,500 meals a week. In addition to their most recent effort to hold the drive-thru meals, they have an ongoing weekly food pantry every Friday at 5:30 p.m. They’ve also increased their efforts since the pandemic to deliver hot meals to various locations where there is need, and have a list of locations.

They’ve been delivering hundreds of meals for the staff at Olive View UCLA Medical Center, Hope of the Valley Homeless Shelter, and the Southern California Resources Center for Independent Living, Union Station Homeless Service and the staff at Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

This is currently the largest effort of its kind in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

“We begin our food preparation at 7 a.m. so that we can practice the need for social distancing,” Sethi said.

“We don’t know how long this pandemic will last or how long people will be without income. People shouldn’t have to worry about feeding their families.”

The meals are served via pickup or drive-thru every Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Khalsa Care Foundation, 9989 Laurel Canyon Blvd., in  Pacoima. No sign-up is required. In addition, KCF hosts a weekly food pantry distribution on that is open to the public on Fridays from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 pm.

If you’d like to volunteer, call (562) 331-8206.