By Prabhupada-priya Dasi and Guru Gauranga Das
On March 11, 2020 the University of Florida (UF) suspended on-campus classes and urged students to go home in light of public health concerns related to COVID-19. Several days later, ISKCON Gainesville (also known as “Krishna House”) suspended operation of its “Krishna Lunch” program.
Racking their brains to find a way to keep “Krishna Lunch”going in conformity with public health guidelines, Krishna House president Srutisagara Das and his management team devised a “Krishna Lunch To Go Only” program. Shortly thereafter, work began on a novel plan to deliver Krishna Lunch to local hospitals where healthcare professionals heroically treat patients infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Called “Krishna Lunch for Healthcare Heroes,” the program was formally launched on April 2, 2020 (Rama Navami). A number of congregational members promptly stepped up to offer much needed financial support to get the new program off the ground.
Originally established at UF under the direction of ISKCON Founder-Acharya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Krishna Lunch program served its first free vegetarian meal in 1971 and has continued serving Krishna Lunch (also known as prasadam, or Krishna’s mercy) on UF class days ever since (see Everything You Should Know About Krishna Lunch at UF). That’s because Krishna Lunch is the way Krishna devotees share their love with UF and Gainesville.
Back in 1971, Swami Prabhupada gave his disciples the following instruction:
“[D]o something wonderful there in Gainesville. Wonderful means simply chant [Hare Krishna] loudly and distribute prasadam. That is not very difficult. It is very easy. Simply if you do it enthusiastically and sincerely, then success will be there. (Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Bhakta Bill dated June 29, 1971)
This seminal instruction by Srila Prabhupada has been the “heart and soul” of Krishna House ever since.
Currently, about 25 devotees in their early 20s live at Krishna House. Some are UF students, and others are full-time novice devotees (bhaktas). In addition to performing their daily spiritual practices (sadhana) and temple service (seva), these devotees have been putting in hundreds of hours each week prepping, cooking and serving “Krishna Lunch” to about 1,000 UF students each day.
On March 31, Krishna House devotees started “Krishna Lunch for Healthcare Heroes.” The first day’s menu consisted of a potato and chickpea vegetable in tomato masala sauce, basmati rice, salad with Krishna House’s vaunted almond dressing and an apple cinnamon halwa desert. By noon of “Day 1,” the Krishna House van was loaded and on its way to make deliveries to local hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units.
Krishna House has also launched a digital platform through which any physician, nurse, therapist, hospital technician, administrator or employee can directly order a free lunch for delivery. Whoever coined the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” wasn’t a healthcare hero enjoying Krishna Lunch in Gainesville!
For those who would like to order or donate, please visit https://krishnalunch.com/supportourheroes. For those eager to start a “Krishna Lunch for Healthcare Heroes” program, please contact Srutisagara Das at firstname.lastname@example.org.