Food for Life and dairy – A message from the director
Food for Life has been a passion of mine for over 30 years now. From the very first day I joined the ashram and decided to be a monk, I was thrust into the kitchen to help cut vegetables for the cooks and then ride 1.5 hours to the Food for Life (Gopals) cafe where I would then serve people their free lunch. I can still recall the smell and excitement from those early days. I was eager to learn as much as I could and I worked with some of the best chefs in the Hare Krishna movement. However, looking back on how we did things then I can now see that our standards of hygiene were nowhere near what we have today and the ingredients we used were also not always pure. Today, most Food for Life kitchens set an extraordinarily high standard in the catering industry.
When I finally got the chance to start my own Food for Life project I wanted to make one thing very clear — we had to focus more on quality than on quantity. In fact, this principle became one of the critical “ingredients of success” in a book I later wrote called, HOW TO BUILD A SUCCESSFUL FOOD RELIEF PROJECT (formerly known as the The 10 Ingredients of Success). The fact that Food for Life Global is today the largest distributor of cooked plant-based meals in the world is all the more astonishing when you consider that our focus from early on has been on quality and not quantity.
Our Unique Message
Food for Life Global offers a unique solution to world hunger in that we are attempting to address the root cause — spiritual inequality — through the indiscriminate sharing of pure plant-based meals as an expression of universal love and respect. The fact that this project has roots in the world’s older hospitality culture lends credibility to this authentic approach to solving hunger and poverty. Furthermore, since Food for Life only distributes plant-based meals offered in devotion (prasadam) as outlined in our standards, it is philosophically consistent in demonstrating that ALL sentient beings are alive with purpose and should therefore be honoured. After all, even in the harvesting and preparation of plant-based meals there is violence, so FFL volunteers will first offer the food in devotion, beginning with intuitive cooking, to cleanse away the negative karma.
Intuitive cooking is the process of preparing meals without tasting or enjoying them through smelling before the sanctification of the meal is completed. It is a challenging task when preparing meals for tens of thousands of children, but that is our standard. In fact, some kitchens prepare up to 65,000 meals a day!
This extra effort to provide the purest meals to our recipients is what sets Food for Life apart from all other food relief organizations, even those that also serve vegan meals. The fact is, although the physical ingredients may appear to be pure, in most cases they are tinged with some kind of violence before coming to our hands and this energetic contamination also needs to be cleansed.
Although Food for Life Global is founded on these solid spiritual principles, over the years, I found myself in a rather awkward position of trying to honour and respect the tradition and institution I got my training from, while dealing with the overwhelming evidence against the use of dairy. It has not been easy trying to please these two very polarising views.
It has been frustrating for me to have to satisfy conservative views within ISKCON and also out-spoken vegans that outrightly reject the ancient dairy tradition and the natural symbiosis that can exist between humans and bovine. Just because what we see today with cows and bulls is abusive, does not mean that a healthy and respectful symbiosis is not possible or that it has never existed. History clearly shows that it has.
Time to change
But times are very different now and one thing we all have to accept is change. Nothing ever remains the same. Nothing. Things evolve, adopt, adjust, and change according to time, place and circumstances. And therefore the same should apply to ancient traditions.
So I want to reassure our donors that for as long as I am directing this non-profit, FFLG will never condone or financially support the use of commercial dairy in any of our food distribution programs. The good news is that the majority of the meals Food for Life affiliates distribute (up to 2 million meals daily) are in fact pure plant-based and do not contain any dairy.
We encourage you this holiday season to stay with Food for Life Global and support our efforts to bring the purest plant-based meals to the world and our unique message of spiritual equality.
– Paul Rodney Turner