for ISKCON News on Jan. 3, 2013
After seeing the success of the Krishna Lunch program at the University of Florida in Gainesville—which serves hot vegetarian meals to around 1,000 students daily—ISKCON devotees in Chicago have followed its example to create their own.
Krishna Lunch ISKCON Chicago is run by Rasika Manjari Dasi, who traveled to Gainesville to study its program in July.
Formerly Director of Professional Services at a treasury solutions software company, Rasika Manjari quit her job to work on Krishna Lunch and other outreach projects full-time.
She launched the program on October 2nd, 2012, and has been its only full-time cook and manager since, although a second full-time volunteer will join her this month.
Rasika is running the Krishna Lunch in cooperation with two student clubs organized by ISKCON devotees at some of Chicago’s biggest universities. There’s the Vedic Vision society at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), which has been running since 2001, and the Bhakti Yoga Society, established in 2005 at Northwestern University.
“We also have support from the vegetarian club, the international club, and several others,” says Rasika Manjari.
Packing up Krishna Lunches at the temple kitchen to take to IIT
For the past two months Krishna Lunch has been served at Northwestern on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1pm to 2pm, and at IIT on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:30am to 1:30pm.
January will see the same schedule for Northwestern, though the Lunch will be served at IIT from Monday through Thursday.
The serving set up will also change this month, from readymade packaged lunch boxes, to a hot, buffet-style serve out.
The menu, however, will continue to be the same delicious Indian vegetarian fare. It rotates every week, with students receiving an email every Sunday letting them know what to expect.
For $5 a plate, they get to tuck into a rice dish, a bean or lentil dish, a mixed vegetable dish, and a flavored halava dessert.
On certain days, there are special extras, including scalloped “Gauranga potatoes,” gulabjamun sweets, and student favorite paneer (curd) subji.
Krishna Lunch packaged meals at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
In two months, attendance to the Krishna Lunch has grown from twenty to forty students at Northwestern, and from thirty to eighty at IIT. Faculty members, too, have begun having their lunch with the Krishnas.
All are appreciative of the new lunch service, and are already engaging with it, commenting on what they do and don’t like, and suggesting new menu ideas.
As well as simply providing a delicious vegetarian meal option for students, the program can also be an introduction to spiritual life.
The food, of course, is prasadam—sanctified by being offered to God. And along with their lunch, students can purchase copies of ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada’s books. The books will also be offered as gifts after every ten meals.
The Krishna Lunch program also works in tandem with the Bhakti Yoga and Vedic Vision societies at the universities, which have a dozen and forty members respectively.
“Students who have lunch with us are encouraged to attend the societies’ cooking classes and weekly philosophical discussions,” says Rasika. “And in turn, the societies encourage their members to have lunch with us.”
Students with their Krishna Lunches peruse Srila Prabhupada's books
Krishna Lunch also assists with awareness programs that the Bhakti Yoga and Vedic Vision societies participate in at the universities, such as World Food Day.
“We serve prasadam for free, or the university sponsors us to bring in prasadam for the students,” Rasika Manjari says.
Krishna Lunch also participates in programs put on by the societies themselves, such as the Vedic Vision Society’s Transformation Exhibit in November.
Getting their prasadam lunch, students often realize the link with ISKCON, and remember the Hare Krishnas fondly. This often leads to them attending the weekly discussions at the Vedic Vision or Bhakti Yoga societies, or being invited to the Chicago temple.
It’s just the beginning for Krishna Lunch Chicago, which will expand to Loyola University this month, and the University of Chicago in the future. It also has received requests for a Krishna Lunch delivery service for corporate offices in downtown Chicago.
Ultimately, Rasika Manjari feels the program has the potential to touch many lives and have many students see Krishna in a favorable light.
“The students see it as a relationship,” she says. “They see that we’re trying to serve them and help them.”
Gulabjamuns are extra popular with the students