Katrina and Rita 2005

Summary of Hurricane Katrina / Rita Relief

October 19, Food For Life Global, the world’s largest vegetarian/vegan food relief organization was one of the first responders to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in late August, by providing freshly cooked meals to needy families in Mississippi and then Texas. A Food for Life team based in Houston began serving hot meals to the many displaced victims who had been relocated to shelters. The details of this effort are as follows: Up to 800 meals were served daily to Hurricane survivors located in various shelters throughout Texas over the last 2 months.

Distribution places included:

  • Fire Station in Hardin, TX
  • Baptist Church in Rie, TX
  • Parkland Mall in Beaumont, TX working alongside FEMA
  • SHAPE community center in Houston
  • Red Cross Shelter (Freeway Manor Baptist Church, Houston)
  • Red Cross Shelter Rice (St. Francis Cabrini)
  • First Baptist, Houston
  • Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston
  • IM Meals on wheels program
  • Red Cross Shelter (Christchurch Christian Fellowship, Houston)
  • Black Forest Theater (in cooperation with Erykah Badu)

Personnel involved:

Cooking:10 volunteersServing, Preparation & Transportation: 15 volunteersMeals were prepared in an Industrial kitchen at the FFL kitchen in Houston, TX.Meals were always freshly cooked on the day and included:

Chili & beans, rice, banana bread, salad with avocado dressing and fruit (watermelons, apples, oranges.)Pasta with tofu, broccoli, carrots, fresh baked banana bread.Vegetable stew with potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, as well as basmati rice and fresh baked banana bread.Rice, garbanzo stew and fresh salad.Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, HoustonChili & beans, rice, salad, peach CobblerOrganic fresh produce was used for all meals.

Recipients: Hurricane Katrina and Rita survivors

A van was loaded daily with prepared meals packaged in to-go containers, placed in thermal boxes and then transported around the city and to other shelters up to 90 miles away.

Food for Life continues to provide vegan meals on a part-time basis, complimenting other agencies in the area.

Hurricane Rita Relief

Hurricane Rita Relief September 29, Our new program at the N. Channel Assistance Ministry in Baytown, Texas is scheduled to start today. We are planning to serve breakfast at 9 a.m. and lunch at 1 p.m. Houston — Breakfast will be banana bread, fresh apples, oranges (and maybe mango slices) and hot oatmeal. Lunch will be chili and beans, rice, salad and watermelon.

A big quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables was donated on Monday by a relief organization based in California. Cem Akin, Director, of The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) flew into Houston and immediately went to the wholefood markets where he filled up a van with $1600 of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and delivered them to the Food for Life kitchen! FTPF is a registered non profit. More information at: www.ftpf.org

On Wednesday, I delivered a salad for about 150 people to SHAPE Community Center, along with some potatoes and carrots. They appreciated this so much.

I got a list from the Red Cross of the shelters in the Houston area. One of them was close to where I was and I dropped in. It is an opulent church and they are hosting 250 people from the Beaumont area. They have a food service providing meals, but had one opening tomorrow night (Thurs.), so we are planning to also provide that meal. It may be only the one time, and possibly next Thurs. as well.

We are planning to make pasta, salad, baked zucchini and watermelon.

– Peter Medley, FFL Disaster Relief Coordinator, Houston

Volunteer Keith Harper’s Diary

9/8/05 – The journey – We arrive at the Food for Life kitchen on the New Talavan farm after midnight after a long and arduous 1000 mile journey from West Virginia. Our large diesel supply truck was packed to the hilt, thus requiring slow and very attentive driving. About halfway to Mississippi, near Nashville, the trucks broke down, the engine having spun a bearing due to the heavy load and constant traveling. We considered getting the truck fixed there, but the owner, Suddha Jiva of New Jersey, would let nothing stop the much needed supplies from reaching those in need. So, extraordinary as is sounds, the fully loaded 25 foot truck was towed the remaining 500 miles to Carierre, in Southern Mississippi. This sort of humble behavior exhibited by Suddha Jiva gives us just a glimpse of the large hearted and selfless natures of those volunteers willing to put their own lives and needs on hold in order to provide better conditions for others. We managed to complete the journey in less than 2 days, and were happy to meet another large truck coming from Florida with further supplies. Needless to say, the locals were greatly pleased and relieved to see the large shipments of necessities like food, water, generators, fuel, cooking gear, cleaning supplies, and much more.

The residents of a local farm community have been providing a wonderful home cooked breakfast to about 75 people daily at nearby red cross shelter. Many of those who received it commented that it was the “best food they have had in a long time — even before the hurricane hit!” They have continued to serve out the breakfasts to this day, not discouraged even by the taunts of some of the red cross workers that “we don’t want any of that vegan stuff here. We need real food” All respects must be given to these local FFL volunteers who have taken the time and energy to serve others so well, even after having their homes and communities ravaged by Katrina’s wrath. Each day, the menu was unique – a typical breakfast consisted of Hash browns, tomato sauce, plum pudding, and vegan omelets.

9/9 – The first day of service – Sumptuous chili made with organic beans and fresh veggies by the loving hands of 15 volunteers and locals, along with tomato rice and an eastern delicacy known as ‘halava’ was distributed to about 300 people in the greater Picayune, Mississippi area, one of the hardest hit and most devastated areas of the gulf coast. Amidst mangled roofs and shattered walls, mountains of broken glass and fields of debris, a team of 5 volunteers, consisting of Dwi Buja, Suddha Jiva, Gauranga Prema, Gauranga Kishore, and myself, Keith Harper were able to go from home to home (if you can call these tangled masses of wood, metal, wire and stone “homes”) distributing hot plates of this delicious and healthy food to people who haven’t had any more then a listless and stale MRE in the past few weeks. We were given so many blessings from the locals we will be sure to be on the good side of God when this is over. Again people were so appreciative for the meals they didn’t even know what to say. But for us, the looks on there faces said everything.

9/10 – Today we distributed at the Claiborne mall in Picayune, Mississippi. The area was being used by the National Guard as a water and ice distribution center. Most of those who came had no power or gas and had been eating only MRE’s since day one. A total of about 400 plates of gourmet Italian style pasta and special maple semolina pudding were passed out. Many people were in tears to see the efforts of the FFL volunteers.

9/11 – Today 700 plates of potato and pinto bean stew, yellow rice, carrot and potato veggie fritters, gourmet peanut butter dessert, and hot tomato bar-b-q sauce were served. This was cooked all day by the loving hands of Gauranga Kishore, Gauranga Prema, Suddha Jiva, and about 10 other volunteers. Distribution was again done at the Claiborne mall in Southern Mississippi. Once more, many people were in tears to see Food for Life volunteers out there in the blazing hot sun giving freshly cooked hot meals to those in need. Some were coming in great anticipation having received the meals on a previous day. They were this good. And today’s menu was the best yet.

9/12 – Today, all we did was clean up the kitchen. With so few volunteers, our resources are stretched to the limit. It took all day and was necessary to maintain sanity.

Notes from the field

The second day after the storm, FFL volunteers from Carrarie, Mississippi were cooking and distributing meals before any Federal government, state or local governments could do anything, nor the Red Cross, or FEMA. In fact, on the fourth day we couldn’t cook rice for our own people because we had sent it out for distribution. Everyday we served meals at the temple at 9:30 AM and 7:30 PM. We had the only source of drinking water in the area, and provided water for people to drink and bathe since all were without power, water or natural gas. We were feeding 60-100 of our community twice a day, plus distributing 300-750 meals a day from August 31 until September 12 in the surrounding area. We had no electrical power and had to run a big LP gas generator to power the 5-horsepower motor on our well pump. Our usage of LP fuel for the pump and cooking were huge that 2-week period. And as you know, our communications with the world during the first few days was through our satellite phone attached to our PC and then to a car battery. Mr. David Jukupko from Alachua got us through since he sent cash for LP gas, which I spent as follows: $970 for LP, $490 for the generator and $470 for the kitchen. He also arranged for a 28ft truck loaded with supplies to arrive within days of the hurricane. Soon after, FFL volunteer, Jim trucked in from New Jersey with kitchen equipment and more supplies, including organic herbs, spices, beans, rice and semolina! We truly appreciate Food for Life Global’s ongoing support with grants of over $6500 and your coordination of volunteers to help us with our relief efforts. – by Yoginda Das (FFL Coordinator, Mississippi)

Houston Menu

Houston’s FFL team has been active serving meals to various shelters around town. Red Cross Shelter (Freeway Manor Baptist Church ) Rice, garbanzo subji and salad. Red Cross Shelter Rice (St. Francis Cabrini) Garbanzo subji & salad First Baptist Chili & beans, rice, salad, corn bread & peanut butter burfee Palmer Memorial Episcopal Peanut butter burfee Interfaith Ministries of ISKCON Youth prepared 300 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for IM Meals on wheels program. Red Cross Shelter (Christchurch Christian Fellowship) Chili & beans, rice, salad, peach Cobbler.

Vegan meals and a whole lot of love!

September 11, 2005 – Fresh vegan meals continue to go out to survivors in Mississippi. “Delicious pasta, vegan chili and lemonade are just the thing to satisfy a rumbling stomach,” explains Rodney Holden, one of the many volunteers helping the FFL Katrina Relief team. Meals are being cooked from the Food for Life farm in Cariere, Mississippi and then transported 20 minutes to Claiborne Mall, Picayune. where the National Guard has set up a Water and Ice Station. Survivors drive in or line up for a hearty lunch of rice, bean and potatoes stew, deep fried vegetable fritters, BBQ sauce, peanut butter pudding and lemonade. Another FFL volunteer, Keith, added, “We also serve breakfast at the Red Cross shelter in Picayune and everyone loves it — hash browns, english muffins, and strawberry semolina pudding!” “People are loving our fresh meals, he said. “It is a nice change from the MRE’s they typically get. Many people were in tears to see the efforts of the FFL volunteers. Many of those who received it commented that it was the “best food they have had in a long time, even before the hurricane hit!”” FFL Volunteers serving meals to survivors arriving to pick up ice and water at the National Guard Relief Station. People were in tears to see Food for Life out there in the blazing hot sun giving freshly cooked hot meals to those in need. Some were coming in great anticipation having received the meals on a previous day. Houston…we have a solution! FFL volunteers from as far away as Los Angeles and Washington DC are flying into Houston to begin a new relief project in cooperation with the Target Hunger Campaign. Freshly cooked vegan meals will be served to Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina at a hall in the center of downtown Houston – Monday to Friday. Food for Life Global is partnering with an organization in Houston called Target Hunger (www.targethunger.org) and with the Southwestern Bell Communicator’s Union. Target Hunger’s modus operandi is to use free food distribution as a hook to attract people and then offer them education in community resources, job hunting, and healthcare, etc. Target Hunger is organizing a massive campaign to educate Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Houston on job resources, living assistance, relocation etc. They will base operations out of the Communicator’s Union Hall (located centrally in Houston). The idea is that FFL will come and serve lunch and people can take the lunch inside the Union Hall, where they will then be given information and assistance. Simultaneously, Food for Life will be serving breakfast to evacuees at a church (20 minutes from the hall). This has also been arranged by Target Hunger. Food for Life Global is proud to be a partner in this project. To learn more about Target Hunger, visit: www.targethunger.org September 8, 2005 – As far as helping hungry people in the devastated Gulf Coast area, Food for Life volunteers from Mississippi, West Virginia, Washington DC, and Florida are doing their part. Food for Life is already sending teams to the stricken Gulf Coast towns of Waveland, Biloxi and Gulfport to distribute sanctified vegetarian meals to Hurricane survivors. A new team from Houston are now serving hot vegetarian dinners at shelters in Houston with a new team from Los Angeles to arrive shortly. Needless to say, our small efforts have been received with gratitude by the storm-tossed survivors. September 6, 2005 — Courageous volunteers from their farm community in Carraire Mississippi are already venturing into the hardest-hit areas of the Gulf Coast, braving fields of debris, vast stretches of noxious quick mud, and crazed gas-hungry locals to distribute freshly cooked vegetarian meals. Despite reports of people being held up at gunpoint to feed gas-hungry SUVs and pickups, yesterday and today the FFL volunteers journeyed to Gulfport and Biloxi to bring hot meals of red beans and rice, chapattis and lemonade to the starving residents. Another New Orleans FFL volunteer, Rodney Holden, who lost everything in the hurricane, recently collected supplies in Memphis and transported them to the FFL Camp Kitchen in Mississippi, while another survivor, Dvibhuja Das, whose rental property lost its roof in the storm, is one of many now devoting their full time to food distribution in the Gulf Coast area. They report a scene of almost total devastation with very little help for the victims. The aged and infirm are hardest hit, often immobilized with no one to help them. The volunteers are going door-to-door in the affected areas near the coast, bringing back striking tales of devastation and woe.” Food for Life Global is continuing to support these efforts as well as many more now getting underway in Texas.