Food for Life in London, an initiative from London’s Radha-Krishna Temple, has been feeding hot meals to the homeless for over 20 years, and in 2017 expanded it’s usual Monday to Thursday offering to include Fridays and Saturdays. Its incredible efforts were officially recognised in December 2017 when the chief organiser of the London-based service, Asish Soni, was honoured with a British Empire Medal for voluntary and charitable services to homeless people.
It is part of the worldwide “Hare Krishna Food for Life” project – the largest global vegetarian not-for-profit food relief organisation, providing over two million free meals daily across the world, served with love. It reaches out to all in need, including the homeless, the disadvantaged, and victims of natural disasters around the world.
Based out of the Temple located in Soho Street in Central London, the London initiative runs with a team of dedicated volunteers. Not only a heart-warming cause but loaded with delicious food, the Food for Life van sets off to Lincolns Inns Field in Holborn and arrives at 7.00pm to greet the queue of hungry people eagerly waiting to be served. They are drawn to the tasty and filling “khichdi” – a scrumptious blend of rice, lentils, and vegetables – accompanied with mouth-watering cake, salad and a hot drink. Needless to say, those in the queue for the food are full of praise for the cooks. The meals are freshly prepared daily by the kitchen staff at Govinda’s Restaurant, the Temple’s pure vegetarian restaurant, and the oldest vegetarian restaurant in London. The volunteers distribute the meals with a smile and greet receivers with the phrase “Hare Krishna” which represents unconditional love and service.
The Food for Life project was initially inspired by the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. In 1974, when watching a group of village children fighting with dogs over scraps of food, the Swami became upset and told his students: “No one within ten miles of a temple should go hungry… I want you to immediately begin serving food.”
The magic of the food lies not just in its generous portions, but also in the power of the belief that the food is specially prepared to touch the souls of those who are blessed enough to come across it. The food is always sanctified, being offered to God first, and that spiritualised food is called “prasadam”, which means the mercy of the Lord. It is believed that prasadam not only helps the physical body – by satisfying your hunger with nutritious food – but also nourishes the soul. It brings spiritual benefits and raises consciousness.
Asish will be proudly accepting his BEM award later this year at a grand event presented by a representative of the Queen of England. He shares: “I wasn’t expecting it at all, a few colleagues put me forward for it. This award should really go to all the wonderful volunteers who make Food for Life possible. They sacrifice their precious time to come and distribute to the needy. Each week is a delightful experience. It has been a privilege to be a part of this service for over 10 years.”
Asish Soni is a civil servant and works as a qualified accountant for the Home Office in Croydon. He got involved with the Hare Krishna movement in his final year of university. Later in 2007, his wife Dipti introduced him to the Food For Life project and he started volunteering. He continues to volunteer now with his wife and is joined sometimes by his three-year-old twin girls.
Pritesh Mashru from West London recently volunteered with the group after searching online for a vegetarian soup kitchen. He says: “The first evening I joined in with the great cause it was my birthday and I wanted to give back something to others. I was captivated by the enthusiasm of the volunteers giving up their Friday evenings for those less privileged. Seeing the group of people who had gathered at the square to receive a plate of hot food was an overwhelming experience and it was wonderful to be able to lift their spirits. The volunteers carried out the tasks so swiftly and with so much care to ensure nobody left the square without something to eat. I was so impressed with the service that I set up a group of helpers from my workplace to ensure someone was always available to help out especially on busy Friday evenings. It was very satisfying serving over Christmas and spreading some joy to those who have so little. We even distributed scarves and hats, which were so much needed. I can’t wait to go along next week and see what new helpers I might meet and who I can greet at the square. Helping with Food For Life is my small way of giving back to the country that has given me so much.”
If you are inspired to distribute delicious free food to hungry souls in London you can contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or come along to the kitchen at Govinda’s Restaurant (10 Soho Street, London W1D 3DL) from Monday to Saturday at 6.00pm. Food is taken and distributed at Lincolns Inn Fields in Holborn at 7.00pm.
About the Hare Krishna movement
The Hare Krishna movement was established in the West in 1966 and is officially known as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). The teachings of the movement are based on eternal Vedic wisdom that was scribed into ancient Indian scriptures written over 5,000 years ago.
The founder of the movement, Srila Prabhupada, made the journey from India to the USA on a cargo ship at the age of 69 to share the ancient teachings of the Vedas. The movement gained immense popularity and caught the attention of famous figures such as George Harrison of The Beatles and the poet Allen Ginsberg in the 1960s.
Globally, there are now over 500 ISKCON temples, and Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and texts have been translated into 85 languages and are studied in schools and universities worldwide.
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The UK registered Charity No. 1132794 registered in England under Limited Liability No. 06953297
Founder-Acharya His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Radha-Krishna Temple, 10 Soho Street, London W1D 3DL Tel: 020 7437 3662 Website: www.iskcon.london
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA KRISHNA KRISHNA HARE HARE HARE RAMA HARE RAMA RAMA RAMA HARE HARE