Chakra Announcements

Food for Life Brings Meals, Hope To Katrina Victims

by Vyenkata Bhatta

Posted September 19, 2005

The Gulf Coast - As people everywhere send prayers and aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, teams of volunteers have mobilized, determined to get freshly made meals to everyone in the Gulf Coast area who needs them. For some volunteers, this service is not merely a good deed-it's a sacred duty. They are members of Food For Life Global, said to be the world's largest vegetarian/vegan food relief group, a not-for-profit organization that is affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), and the food that they are distributing is prasadam (sanctified vegetarian fare).

The group began its efforts in this area mere hours after the killer hurricane struck over one week ago, with a Food For Life team located at the Hare Krishna farm in Carriere, Mississippi taking the lead. Despite the fact that the farm was, itself, hit by Katrina's wrath, a crew of thirty selfless volunteers quickly sprang into action, serving out hot meals to afflicted families in their local area. Since then efforts have expanded, and courageous Krishna devotees are "venturing into the hardest-hit areas of the Gulf Coast, braving fields of debris, vast stretches of noxious mud, and crazed gas-hungry locals to distribute... hot meals of red beans and rice, chapattis [Indian flat bread] and lemonade to the starving residents," according to a statement on the organization's website, www.ffl.org/.

"The philosophy of Food For Life is that everybody is spiritually equal," says director Priyavrata Dasa (Paul Turner). "We want to feed everybody." MORE...

Devotees from other ISKCON temples have responded to the call as well, traveling from West Virginia, Texas, Florida, and other states, to work with Food For Life and reach out to those in need. In Houston, a Food For Life team is serving hot meals to the many displaced victims who have been relocated to Houston shelters. And the ISKCON temple in Spanish Fork, Utah has pledged to match any Katrina donation it receives through its website, www.utahkrishnas.com/, and forward the funds to the Food For Life effort in the Gulf Coast. "What inspires us to do what we do is not only feelings of humanitarianism," Utah temple leader Charu Dasa told the Daily Herald, "but [also that] the food that we give to people is consecrated in our temple." Krishna devotees believe that by distributing prasadam they are nourishing and comforting the soul along with the body.

While offering charity has always been a part of the Vaishnava culture, Food For Life was started in 1974, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna movement. Seeing street children rummaging through the garbage for something to eat, the Swami was moved to tears and instructed his followers that nobody within a ten-mile radius of any Hare Krishna temple should go hungry. Since then, the program has grown to include free food restaurants, mobile kitchens, and emergency relief services, and is active in over 60 countries.

The group has provided relief during wars in Sarajevo (1994), cyclones in Orissa (1999), earthquakes in Gujarat (2001), and most recently the devastating Tsunami in Sri Lanka (2004), among others. Reporting on their willingness to risk their lives to distribute fresh food to everybody in war-torn Chechnya, the New York Times said that "here they have a reputation like the one Mother Teresa has in Calcutta: it's not hard finding someone to swear they are saints."

For more information about Food For Life Global, please visit www.ffl.org/

Backgrounder, Food For Life Brings Meals, Hope to Katrina Victims

In the last two decades, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has served over 100 million hot, nutritious vegetarian meals to the disadvantaged throughout America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe, through its Food For Life program.

In 1974, seeing street children rummaging through the garbage for something to eat, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, ISKCON's founder, was moved to tears and instructed his followers that nobody within a ten-mile radius of any Krishna temple should go hungry. Thus began the Hare Krishna Food For Life program. Today, the program includes free food restaurants, mobile kitchens, and emergency relief services, and distributes upwards of 30,000 free, hot vegetarian meals per day to needy people in more than 60 countries.

"Too much grief and despair in the world is caused by hunger," says Priyavrata Dasa, international coordinator of Food For Life. "Therefore, Krishna devotees are dedicated to preparing healthy, sanctified, vegetarian foods knowing that it will bring people hope." Food For Life has provided aid during several emergencies worldwide. Some of these are:

o Tsunami in Southeast Asia (2004): Food for Life was quick to respond, providing relief support and hot vegetarian meals to people on the same day of the disaster. In Sri Lanka alone more than 10,000 meals have been provided daily, along with medical care, clothing, and shelter for orphaned children at an ISKCON orphanage.

o Earthquake in Gujarat, India (2001): More than 130 Food for Life volunteers, including 50 doctors and nurses set up a temporary hospital and food distribution camps in the most devastated areas, offering hot meals, medical care, and grief counseling.

o Cyclone in Orissa, India (1999): Food for Life was able to distribute more than one million vegetarian meals, 40,000 bottles of water, blankets, clothes, and first aid treatment to the devastated survivors.

o War in Sarajevo, Bosnia (1994): Throughout one of the most vicious conflicts in recent times. Krishna devotees literally risked their lives to deliver fresh bread and cookies to thousands of women and children hiding in bullet-riddled apartments.