By FFA team
Food For All devotees have been joined in a massive community effort by volunteers from all walks of life across London to prepare, pack and distribute over 5,000 meals every day, 6 days a week, serving at 17 distribution points around the city.
Food For All’s unique open-door policy, which encourages non-devotee volunteers to assist in preparing Krishna-prasadam in a welcoming atmosphere, has proved highly successful in enabling the charity to rapidly scale up its operation. With logistical help from furloughed staff from a brewery, a distribution network was set up in a matter of days and prasadam meals are now being served by a number of local government authorities, hospitals, mutual aid organisations and community groups in several London boroughs.
Teams of 25 volunteers, most of whom have never entered a Vaishnava kitchen before, arrive early every morning to help chop vegetables and pack meals into boxes for transportation. Many more assist with deliveries around the UK’s capital. Devotees from ISKCON London’s Food For Life have also moved their operation to Food For All’s Holborn kitchen due to the closure of the temple, and are continuing to serve each evening at their regular location in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Food For All encourages devotees working on similar projects around the world to welcome and encourage support from the broader community at this time. It is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the practical application of Krishna consciousness in a way that is both accessible and non-judgmental. People outside of devotee circles are willing and ready to help and can often bring practical skills and perspectives from their experience in their usual employment.
By making an online public request for volunteers from the community to come forward in three service areas, kitchen, distribution and remote office support, a team can be quickly assembled. By working with local businesses and grant funding organisations, resources and donations can be brought in, provided the project’s approach is not to proselytise to recipients of the prasadam. This is often a condition of funding, but since prasadam is Krishna Himself, there is no necessity of philosophical explanation.
The present situation offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for prasadam distribution projects in countries around the world to better establish themselves and to build relationships of trust and co-operation with local and regional authorities, organisations and communities. There is a genuine heightened risk of health consequences by devotee and volunteer participation in the programme, but this can be mitigated by adapting PPE, even using homemade alternatives which are almost as effective as surgical protection, and by implementing social distancing policies in kitchens and at distribution points.
Of course, anyone who takes up this challenge must be fully aware of the risk, and must make it clear to everyone else who offers help. It is not that projects should behave recklessly or put people’s health at risk in order to serve Krishna, for that would not be very nice service. But it is possible to mitigate the risk, and so far, by the grace of Krishna, no-one working on the Food For All project in London has developed any severe symptoms, and there has been no spread of the disease through staff after isolated mild cases. It is extremely important to remain vigilant, and not to take Krishna’s protection for granted, however it appears that in London, Lord Nrisimhadeva has so far protected both the devotees and their new volunteer friends to perform this vital seva at this very difficult time.
Food For All UK regrets that due to budgetary constraints, it is not able to financially support projects in other countries. However, team members will be very happy to advise on set-up of similar projects at any scale, small or large, using the model developed here in the UK. Please email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nrisimham-Bhagavana-ki-jaya! All glories to the brave prasadam distribution devotees working around the world at this time!