An impromptu drive-through at a Sikh temple to feed neighbors now helps thousands daily

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Balwinder Sidhu helps in a food distribution organized by the United Sikh Mission and the city's Sikh community on Thursday at Sikh Gurdwara in Riverside. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

It started with 175 meals being served from a drive-through created outside the Riverside Sikh Temple.

Now, the United Sikh Mission and the Sikh community of Riverside are giving out thousands of meals a day, have provided thousands of masks to the local community and are handing out groceries on the weekend.

Serving up to 1,400 meals a day at the Sikh temple, the group has provided more than 40,000 meals over the past month to healthcare professionals and people in need.

"We have seen more people every day, people that lost their jobs and wages and can't afford a hot meal for themselves and their families" said Gurpreet Singh, COVID-19 coordinator at United Sikh Mission.

They've sent more than 1,000 meals a day to nursing homes in Jurupa Valley, Moreno Valley and Riverside. They also deliver meals to four area hospitals.

People receive food packages at the food distribution event in Riverside. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

And they've given out 15,000 masks, including more than 2,000 made by members of the local Sikh community, Singh said. Additionally, they hand out groceries every Saturday and Sunday along with hot meals and masks. Last weekend, the lines for groceries were about a mile long, he said.

The cooks and owners of Spice Jar in Fontana and Aroma Grill in Upland donate their time to cook the meals to ensure people can be fed every day.

Each day, they cook from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., package meals from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and pick up and distribute food from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Most of the money has been donated by community members.

The coronavirus outbreak in California has sickened almost 40,000 Californians and killed more than 1,500. It has left millions without jobs. Singh said the group wants to help anyone they can in their community.

"No one should go hungry is the way we are approaching this," Singh said. "We serve seven days a week because there are no days off for hunger."

Meals are delivered to drive-through participants during the event. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Times staff writer Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.

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