On September 9th, team members of the Food For All charity were invited to meet with the Lord Mayor of the City of London William Russell, at his official residence the Mansion House, to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Equivalent to an MBE, the QAVS is the highest award given to local voluntary groups in the UK.
Food For All volunteers were told back in June that they would receive the accolade for “preparing and sharing free, hot, nutritious meals with those who would otherwise go hungry.” The prasadam distribution non-profit has delivered about 1.5 million meals to those in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Director Parasurama Das, it’s the only group in Hartfordshire, and the only group in the City of London to receive the QAVS this year.
A group of sixteen was invited to the Mansion House for the honor. Along with Parasurama Das there were several Food For All managers, volunteers from the devotee community and the greater local community, and financial supporters from rock bands and banking institutions.
The group was welcomed by the Lord Mayor, and received a private tour of the historic Mansion House building. Food For All was then presented with a personal signed letter from the Queen of England as well as a large glass award for services during the pandemic, and 100 badges for the charity’s many volunteers.
Food For All also made “Certificates of Appreciation” for each volunteer, recognizing their contribution, with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service logo, as well as copies of the Queen’s letter. “Many of our volunteers are refugees, and a letter like this can help them get employment,” explains Parasurama.
Parasurama Das, who is originally from Ireland, began feeding the homeless in London in 1988, and registered “Food For All” as a charity in 1996. The organization prepares prasadam at its purpose-built kitchens Krishna’s Castle in Holborn, London, and The Jagannath Kitchen in Watford. In addition it has fourteen small centers around the UK, from Reading to Bristol, and from Glasgow in Scotland to Canterbury in Wales.
As well as devotees, volunteers include many people from the greater local community, such as students and businesspeople. Food For All is funded primarily with the support of many rock band members, and its President is Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. The charity also receives some government support.
Volunteers deliver meal boxes containing rice, subji and a pakora, along with fruits, cakes, and parcels of groceries to homeless shelters, refugees, the elderly, schools, and various communities in need of meals. By Valentine’s Day this year, Food For All had distributed 1 million meals during the pandemic; volunteers now estimate they’ve distributed about 1.5 million. At one point, the charity was distributing about five and a half thousand meals a day.
In March 2022, if safety permits, Food For All volunteers are set to attend a garden party with the Queen.
“Srila Prabhupada desired that governments would recognize the value of devotional service, how it transforms people, and how we could transform the country for the better,” Parasurama comments.
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