Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15 – 19, 2015: During this week’s interfaith conference, the local Sikh community joined together to accomplish something great: in addition to feeding up to 10,000 of the conference’s attendees for free, they donated thousands of pounds of leftover food to local homeless shelters.
“Sewa, service to the community is essential to Sikh life and food is a big part of that,” said Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal, former president of the World Sikh Organization, chairperson of World Sikh Council until 2011 and host of the langar. “For a Sikh it is both a privilege and a duty to provide langar in the gurdwara (place of worship) for the entire congregation after weekly worship. The langar is part of our worship, a fundamental aspect of Sikh life, and we are honored to share it with the Salt Lake City community.”
The Sikh community donated food every day during the Parliament totaling a donation of 3,800 pounds over the five days, equal to 3,166 meals. The food has been donated to the nearby Catholic Community Services St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen, a housing and homeless shelter, for their daily supper. Danielle Stamos, director of public relations and marketing of Catholic Community Services of Utah said, “We serve over 1,200 meals each day at out St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall to our low-income and homeless friends. This food was greatly needed to help us keep stomachs full and people warm as the temperatures drop. The Parliament is about bringing together people of all different religions and backgrounds. It’s wonderful to see and the end of it all, their focus is helping those in need.”
When logistical problems came up for the Sikhs to donate their food, Thomas O’Donnell, expert on food waste recovery, stepped up to find a solution. He contacted the Utah Food Bank, and they got involved to make it all happen.
“We’re so thankful for the foresight of the Parliament’s leaders as they work to eradicate food waste,” said Ginette Bott, Utah Food Bank Chief Development Officer. “This wonderful donation means that the clients who receive these meals won’t be one of the 423,000 Utahns who are at risk of going to bed hungry tonight. In a state like Utah, no one should have to wonder where their next meal will come from, and eliminating food waste is a great first step in Fighting Hunger Statewide.”
With World Food Day October 16, emeritus trustee Solomon Katz committed the Parliament to donating all excess food to Feeding America, the country’s largest domestic food aid organization. As a way to actualize the commitment of the many thousands who attend the largest inter-religious gathering in the world to providing food for the poor and hungry of the local Salt Lake City region where the historic Parliament is taking place. This commitment to saving surplus food that might otherwise be wasted also symbolizes the the commitment of all present to help eliminate food waste, one of the goals of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals recently announced at the United Nations and by the US EPA and USDA to cut food waste by 50% by 2030.
“Much of the Parliament is about saving waste, improving our environment, and providing for those who suffer from poverty, hunger and thirst. Donating our excess food couldn’t make more sense and I feel fortunate that other leaders are on board to help make it happen,” said Trustee Sol Katz, a University of Pennsylvania professor and Chair of the International Task Force on World Food Problems for the American Anthropological Association, focused on science and inter-religious solutions to world food problems.
Parliament of The World’s Religions is hosted a 5-day interfaith conference in Salt Lake City October 15-19th. 10,000 people from 80 countries and 50 different faiths attended this year’s Parliament. The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.