Ammy's Soup Kitchen: The humble charity keeping Preston well-fed during the Covid pandemic

The year was 2016 and Amritpal Singh was walking through Preston town centre when he noticed something.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 4:55 am
Ammy helping ensure people across Preston have access to hot meals during the pandemic

“It was a Sunday and I saw this lady with her husband and their disabled child,” explains Amritpal, who goes by Ammy. “She was in her 60s herself, but she was giving out tea and coffee to homeless people and so I went across and I asked if she wanted a hand. She said she did and asked if I could get any food for people.

"Because I know quite a few of the local takeaway owners, so I managed to get some and was able to help feed a few people. After we were done, I said I’d cook something and return the following Sunday to help out again but, on the Thursday, she rang me and said she unfortunately couldn’t come anymore because she’d been diagnosed with cancer,” adds Ammy, 48.

“Sunday came around and I was sat at home thinking ‘last week, I was helping homeless people’. So I decided to go down myself again: I made a chickpea curry with rice and chapatis and handed food out in the town centre. That was about five years ago and the rest really is history.”

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Ammy's Soup Kitchen has been preparing and distributing hundreds of meals a day over the past couple of years

Setting up Ammy’s Soup Kitchen on Preston Market, Ammy was soon regularly cooking and handing out between 80 and 100 meals each Sunday to homeless people and those in need. Over the intervening years, the charity has grown, with Ammy now joined in his compassionate efforts by his sons Hazzara and Gurdass.

And the difference they’re making is hard to underestimate.

Food bank usage has soared across the UK and Lancashire since 2010, with the Trussell Trust reporting that the number of people relying on food banks has increased by 128% in the last five years alone.

Additionally, between April 2020 and March 2021 alone, 2.5m emergency food parcels were handed out nationwide, a 33% increase on the year before. Almost a million of those meals went to children.

Ammy's Soup Kitchen in full flow

“I’ve been involved in charity since I was 15 or 16,” says Ammy, with the soup kitchen having also taken it upon themselves to make food for children on free school meals during half-term when the government announced it would not be doing so. “Growing up, I’d cook for 400 people in the temples, clean toilets in the gurdwaras, and help at local churches. I was here, there, and everywhere.

“With Ammy’s Soup Kitchen, I approached Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and a lot of the Asian stores for donations and they’d give me any bits and bats that they had which we could use,” he adds. “We cook everything ourselves, keep it warm, and it’s just a higher standard than what people might be getting otherwise.”

During Covid, the voluntary organisation has been supporting key workers and putting together food hampers for local homeless shelters, emergency services, and women’s support centres as well as elderly people in need. Ammy has also been making and distributing hundreds of meals a week through local gurdwaras, which stayed open to serve free food for those in need.

“In lockdown, I was making 400 meals a day,” says Ammy, who never shows his face in pictures whilst working with the charity so as not to detract from the work itself. “And I live in the town centre, so I’ve always got things like biscuits to give out to people living on the streets. At Christmas, we gave out hampers for over 100 families including 200 kiddie bags with toys, colouring books, and felt tips.

Ammy's Soup Kitchen also provided meals for emergency workers

“People always ask ‘why do you do it?’ but I always say ‘why not?’” he adds. “I’ve been helping all my life and that little push from that old lady handing out tea and coffee has just grown from there.

“I don’t do it for the fame and fortune, I do it because it raises awareness and it brings me happiness.”

Ammy’s Soup Kitchen is funded by Ammy and his family and by donations. To make a donation, head to their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/f/21zhltsuc0