Food For Life Program
Devotees have been feeding the needy for the last 26 years!
On the face of it, Food For Life is the largest vegetarian food distribution program in the world with 1000 volunteers serving more than 40,000 free meals in over 60 countries every day. However, its activities have a deeper history, sweeter motive and farther-reaching impact than your common altruistic organisation.
In the village life of ancient India the religious householders, or grhasthas, of Vedic times saw themselves as providers for all living beings, including the animals. Not even a rat or a snake would go without food during the pinnacle of Vedic civilization in India, what to speak of human beings. During a room conversation in Tokyo, the founder of Food for Life, Srila Prabhupada explained:
"It is the duty of a householder to loudly cry, "If anyone is hungry, please come. We have still got food." That is the duty of a grhastha. If one does not come, then the chief of the house, he takes prasada. If somebody says, "I am hungry," so he should offer his own food. "You eat." This is duty of a religious householder: Bhunjate te tv agham papa ye pacanti. Those who are cooking for themselves, they are simply eating sinful things. That's all. Bhunjate te tv agham papa ye pacanty atma-karanat. So hospitality is one of the duties of the householder." (Room Conversation Tokyo, April 22, 1972)
Food for the soul
The main impetus for any of ISKCONs activities is a mood of devotion and love for the Supreme Person, Sri Krsna. The food cooked is therefore done with that extra little bit of tlc. Once prepared, the food is offered to Krsna in a gesture of love. The food is then called prasadam meaning the Lords mercy. Imbued with this spiritual ambience, prasadam satisfies and nourishes, not just on the physical level but also on a spiritual level. Subsequently, prasadam is distributed to all, whether to address the hunger of the stomach, or to quell the thirst of the heart and soul.
In 1974, Srila Prabhupada was looking out from his room at ISKCON's temple in Mayapura (West Bengal), when he noticed a group of village children fighting with street dogs over scraps of food. Shocked and saddened by what he saw, Srila Prabhupada turned to his disciples and said, "Imagine how hungry they are.... "God is the Father. Wherever there is the Father, the children should not be hungry? A temple therefore means: free food distribution.... "No one within a ten mile radius of our temples should go hungry.... ". I want you to begin distributing food immediately."
These prophetic words rang loudly, inspiring his followers. A global network of free food kitchens, cafes, vans, and emergency services were soon established. Hare Krishna Food for Life has emerged as the world's largest vegetarian/vegan food-relief program with 170 free food kitchens, home delivery programs, mobile kitchens, school services and disaster relief programs. From the time of the order up to the turn of the century over 100 million meals had been served worldwide.