Food For Life London, which has been feeding hot vegetarian meals to the homeless since 1994, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with its first ever “Walk Against Hunger.”
A project of ISKCON’s Radha Krishna Temple, Food For Life serves around 900 prasadam meals a week – a total of over 1 million since its inception.
Its ten-mile “Walk Against Hunger” will start and finish at Soho Square on June 29th, and will circumambulate the temple, symbolizing ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s instruction that no one go hungry within a ten-mile radius of any ISKCON temple.
Participants will pass iconic sights of Central London, including Tower Bridge, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. Along the way, they’ll do kirtan and distribute Prabhupada’s books and prasadam sweets, and collect donations. Each participant will pay a £15 registration fee and aim to raise a minimum of £250, from collecting as well as getting support from friends, family and colleagues.
The proceeds will fund an environment-friendly, fully electric food distribution van, the first of its kind in Europe.
“We are consistently looking for new ways to make a more profound impact,” says fundraising lead Rajiv Nandha. “And with the Mayor of London’s plan to make Central London a zero emission zone by 2020, we thought it a perfect opportunity to raise funds for an electric food van that is 100% carbon free. The eco-van will allow us to serve the homeless in various locations while being mindful of the environment. It will cost £60,000.”
The van will also be fully equipped to keep prasadam hot and hygienic, and will have a shelter for recipients to stand under in the rain.
It’s an important investment for a project that is needed now more than ever, with homelessness at a record high in London.
Six days a week – Monday to Saturday – staff at ISKCON-London’s Govinda’s Restaurant prepare nutritious kichari with hot tea and cake. Volunteers then donate their time after work to serve the prasadam out, usually for one hour from 6:30pm to 7:30pm at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London’s largest public square.
About 150 people per day are benefitted, including not only the homeless but also working professionals and anyone who is hungry.
“People really like the Hare Krishnas, and are grateful to receive hot, delicious and healthy kichari, especially during the winter when it’s freezing cold,” says Govinda’s manager Thirupati Gauranga Das, who heads up production.
Food For Life London is widely appreciated, up to the highest levels. In December 2017, Chief Organiser Acyuta Charan Das was honored by Her Majesty the Queen with a British Empire Medal (BEM) for voluntary and charitable services to homeless people.
More recently, professional footballer Daniel Sturridge – a striker for Premier League club Liverpool and the English national team – was walking his dog one evening when he passed the Food For Life team. After speaking with them, he was so inspired that he immediately went to a nearby cash machine and donated £400 in cash to cover four days of prasadam distribution.
“I saw people eating food and wondered what it was, and wondered how they provide this food,” he commented in a video made for Food For Life soon after. “People being homeless hits home, and it is cold and wet outside. They don’t have food. I just went and donated to the cause because I felt it was really kind of them to do this.”
Of course, the sanctified food that Food For Life serves is special – it is prasadam, or the mercy of the Lord. Devotees believe that prasadam not only helps the physical body, by satisfying the hunger with nutritious dishes – but also nourishes the soul. It brings spiritual benefits to the eater, and raises their consciousness.
“People may not always know about the benefits – as Srila Prabhupada explains, when a doctor gives medicine, the patient may not know how it acts – but still, it works,” says Thirupati Gauranga. “So Food For Life has changed the lives of millions around the world with prasadam. Certainly, it changed my life.”
Looking to the next twenty-five years, Food For Life London’s plans are simple: increase to serving prasadam seven days a week; and serve as many people as they can.
To join the Walk Against Hunger, register and start fundraising: www.foodforlifelondon.co.uk/walkfood-for-life ] [ govindas ] [ iskcon-london ]