Krishna CARES, which delivers hot vegetarian meals to the vulnerable, the elderly, and others in need in Gainesville, Florida, delivered sixty meals to the Ronald McDonald House this past Christmas Day.
Parents stay for free at the non-profit family and children’s charity, located near Shands Hospital in Gainesville, while their children go through long-term hospital care.
Krishna CARES is run by residents of Gainesville’s Krishna House. The organization has been delivering 30 meals every Thursday to the Ronald McDonald House, and double that on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Krishna House residents including President Sruti Sagar Das delivered the special Christmas meals consisting of creamy Gauranga potatoes, quinoa, butternut squash soup, and salad with dressing.
The devotee volunteers, who isolate at Krishna House, wore gloves and masks while delivering the hot meals, which were sponsored by Krishna Lunch regulars.
“The managers of the Ronald McDonald House said that the families were really happy to get a nice, fresh, healthy vegetarian meal,” Sruti Sagar says. “They were just happy to feel that there are people willing to care for them, especially during Christmas, which is of course the giving season.”
Krishna CARES’ effort was covered on the local CBS affiliate channel 4 news. “The organization’s president says actually, the pandemic brought out more people willing to give,” stated the news anchor, before cutting to an interview with Sruti Sagar Das.
“Even though there was a moment of crisis, still because of the crisis a lot of people wanted to help out, and a lot of people are open to receiving,” Sruti Sagar told the TV news interviewer. “It really helped us be a bigger part of the community, and we really felt more connected in the past seven or eight months with Gainesville.”
Krishna CARES has been helping people throughout the pandemic, and still delivers meals directly to the homes of some local elderly people and families in need.
Meanwhile the famous Krishna Lunch, which has been serving hot meals to University of Florida students every week since 1971, returned to the campus recently. The program suspended operations when COVID-19 struck in March 2020, focusing instead on Krishna CARES and delivering lunches to healthcare professionals.
Krishna Lunch restarted in September, pausing again throughout the winter break, and returning on January 11th.
“The university is happy to have us there, because it gives the students and everybody a sense of normalcy,” Sruti Sagar says.
Krishna Lunch is served outside on the campus five days a week, Monday to Friday from 11am to 1:30pm, for a $5 suggested donation.
There are some changes these days, of course – Krishna House residents serve around 200 meals per day from behind plexiglass barriers, with no seconds, only one person going through the line at a time to ensure social distancing, and everyone wearing masks.
But the menu remains just as varied and delicious as ever. On Monday, there’s rice, chickpeas and potatoes in tomato masala; on Tuesday, rice, kofta balls and mixed vegetable curry; on Wednesday, vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, BBQ tofu chunks, and corn chips; on Thursday, rice, lentil soup, and Thai coconut curry; and on Friday, rice, chili, and creamy Gauranga potatoes. In addition, every day there’s salad with the famous Krishna Lunch almond dressing, and a different flavor of halava, such as apple cinnamon, banana cream, pumpkin spice, pineapple, or carob.
About 100 more packaged Krishna Lunches daily are ordered online and delivered through Grub Hub, Uber Eats and Door Dash, or picked up from the Krishna House.
Along with their food distribution, Krishna House devotees contribute to society in various ways. Recently, President Sruti Sagar Das became a member of the City of Gainesville’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Community Development, which brainstorms initiatives for the local community and oversees grants from the Federal government.
“We’ve tried to be part of the solution during the pandemic in our own ways, especially with Healthcare Heroes and Krishna CARES,” Sruti Sagar says. “And it’s nice that based on these projects and services we’re doing, we can start taking a slightly more active role in mainstream society. People see that, “Oh, these Hare Krishnas do care about society in general, and should be involved in conversations about community development.”
Such services, Sruti Sagar feels, help the public relate more to devotees. “A lot of people in Gainesville, even those who don’t know about Krishna consciousness at all, have appreciated all our prasadam distribution this year during the pandemic,” he says. “It shows that Hare Krishnas are not just a small group in our bubble, but we’re actually out there trying to serve, trying to help. And it creates a fertile ground for Krishna consciousness and gives us a good platform to talk with people.”
What’s more, such service is also extremely beneficial for the Krishna House residents. “When they’re out there serving, and they see how grateful people are, just being able to give makes them so happy,” says Sruti Sagar.[ gainesville ] [ krishna-house ] [ prasadam-distribution ]