The Food For Life branch in New Jagannath Puri at ISKCON of Phoenix, South Africa – a suburb of Durban – relaunched on August 9th by preparing 108 pots of Biryani, a rice dish with vegetables. As the sun rose in the early morning, the impressive operation saw devotees cooking outside over multiple rows of wood fires against the backdrop of the New Jagannath Puri temple.
Food For Life’s distribution partner network of religious organizations of all faiths then distributed an incredible 21,600 meals to the needy in the local community. The effort took place on the occasion of National Women’s Day, an annual public holiday in South Africa.
“We had pre-packed all the food ingredients the day before, on Sunday, so that it would be a much smoother exercise on Monday morning,” says ISKCON Phoenix temple president Prabhanu Das. “We had ten pots allocated to a group of devotees, and all they had to do was put the ingredients given to them in the pots, and make sure that everything was properly cooked. We started at 4:30 in the morning, and finished cooking at around 10:00am.”
Various faith partners and non-profit organizations then distributed the meals to the needy in communities some 40 kilometers to the South of the temple, as well as 25 kilometers to the North. In addition, three to four thousand meals were distributed at the temple itself. Covid precautions such as masks and sanitization were used throughout the preparation and distribution efforts.
According to Prabhanu, one of Srila Prabhupada’s main instructions to the devotees in South Africa was to distribute prasadam through Food For Life. So with its relaunch, Food For Life of New Jagannath Puri is aiming to reach out to the community in the spirit of upliftment and goodwill.
“The idea is that we want to try and make the area around the temple a hunger free zone as much as we possibly can,” Prabhanu says.
As it was National Women’s Day, the occasion also saw a local online radio station, Impressions, broadcast from the temple and interview devotee women.
“The idea was that while we are feeding the impoverished, we’re also doing something to honor the women of our society as well,” says Prabhanu.
The response from recipients of the prasadam was enthusiastic and appreciative. “One thing that we’ve learned over the years is that prasadam cooked on an open fire definitely tastes better than prasadam cooked over gas,” chuckles Prabhanu.
There was also an appreciative response from the organizations distributing meals on Food For Life’s behalf.
“We received a lot of letters, thanking us for making such an amazing contribution, so that they could go out and do this for people that need it,” Prabhanu says. “So it was very fulfilling in that regard.”
After such a successful relaunch, Food For Life of New Jagannath Puri now aims to distribute some 600 to 700 prasadam meals every weekend, with a view to building up to daily distribution.
“I’m hoping that this will bring people together,” Prabhanu says. “As Srila Prabhupada said, humanity at large is suffering. Hopefully, by this process, we’ll be able to satisfy their need of hunger, and that will open up the pathway to spiritual enlightenment, by distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books and Krishna consciousness.”
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