Food for Life Hungary reached a historic milestone on 17 November when the head of the humanitarian program, Bhakta Vatsala Dasa, received the “For Budapest” award from the capital’s mayor, Gergely Karacsony. The honor, given on Budapest’s 150th Birthday, also conferred honorary citizenship on Bhakta Vatsala. The 150th celebration commemorated the unification of the three historical parts of the city: Buda, Pest, and Óbuda.
Dozens of honorary citizens, artists, and celebrities who have contributed in some way to the development, image, and existence of the Hungarian capital were also honoured at the award ceremony.
Food for Life has become an inseparable part of Budapest
Bhakta Vatsala, a long-standing and dedicated disciple of His Holiness Sivarama Swami, has been practicing Krishna Consciousness since his youth, lived as a brahmachari in Krishna Valley, and has been leading FFL for over a decade. He is mainly active at the Budapest site but also participates in almost all the principal rural food distributions.
Bhakta Vatsala is working to fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s wish that there should be no hungry people anywhere in the world, but at least not within ten miles of the temples. He has almost truly superhuman abilities, packing the boxes himself late at night before the big food parcel distributions, being the first to pitch the tents at dawn and the last to go home at the end of the program. He lives up to his spiritual name (who is affectionate to the devotees), too, as he has such a big heart that devotees can always count on his help, whether it is about food, packing, or transport.
Bhakta Vatsala Dasa accepted the award “For Budapest” on behalf of the entire Food for Life team. He said, “It is the collective merit of all the current and former active members of the humanitarian program. FFL members fondly remember, for example, Dhananjaya Dasa, who pioneered the food distribution in Hungary decades ago and passed away last year.”
FFL is an integral part of the Budapest scene, distributing 2,000 plates of hot meals every day among people in need in the capital alone, accompanied by complementary products, giving hope to thousands of our fellow human beings facing difficulties.
And the real celebrations are just beginning, as this year marks the 35th Christmas Love Feast in the capital. Between 24-26 December, for three days, Food for Life will once again provide 1,500 meals a day and a rich festive food parcel to people in need, and the entire Advent campaign will end at the end of January with the distribution of a total of 6,000 hot meals in 7 more rural communities.
The Hungarian Food for Life devotees thanked the “For Budapest” award by saying, “Thank you, Budapest, you can count on us in the future as well!” Many congratulations to Bhakta Vatsala Das for his exemplary, often superhuman and sacrificial work.
Food for Life’s roots in the heart of Europe
FFL has been operating in Hungary for more than three decades. In the early days, devotees distributed potatoes and oranges from vans to the needy. The food distribution later specialized in the distribution of hot meals offered to God (prasadam). In addition to daily food distributions, devotees also cooked on festive occasions or after natural disasters to help victims (Haiti, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Bosnia, and those of disasters within Hungary). The Christmas food relief became the most significant food distribution event in Hungary, and most Hungarians got to know the devotees through television reports of these events. Initially, it was mainly homeless people who participated, but over a few decades, the image of food distribution has changed due to social changes. Today, it is primarily pensioners, the chronically ill, and average middle-class families with many children who queue up for FFL food aid, but there are also refugees and young people who have lost their jobs.
FFL distributes 3,000 meals a day in Hungary currently. In the capital, 1,400 rations are delivered to homeless shelters. As European Union (EU) funding to support homeless shelters in the capital has recently ceased, FFV is currently the only service in Budapest that provides hot meals to these institutions on a daily basis – rich, tasty meals offered to God. Part of the team is constantly focused on fundraising, but they are also involved in the Food Bank’s food rescue efforts in Hungary. Thanks to this, cooking ingredients that are still fresh and in excellent condition but slated to be discarded are recovered and delivered to the tables of families. If all this ended up in the trash, it would also be a significant burden on the environment.
The 35th Christmas Love Feast will be the largest festive charity event in Hungary and the only vegetarian food distribution program in the country. Please consider being a sponsor of the Christmas Love Feast online by clicking here.
To learn more details about the FFL’s inspiring service in Budapest, you can follow their activities on their Facebook page.
To follow the larger service of the Hungarian Yatra click here.
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