Mission: Food for Life
Source: El Espectador, 13 April, 2014
Paul Rodney Turner said that the country [Colombia] has the most nutritious fruits and vegetables in the world. The food relief program is in 60 countries.
In 1974, in Calcutta, India, the spiritual master Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness saw a group of children in his village fighting for food scraps with stray dogs. “No one within 10 miles of our temples should go hungry,” he told his students that day. So was born the Food for Life Global organization (FFLG), now the world ‘s largest plant-based food relief, with hundreds of volunteers in 60 countries delivering over three million free meals daily.
That initial act of compassion soon spread beyond the borders of India, inspiring Krishna devotees to start a project in a small a kitchen in Sydney, Australia. Paul Rodney Turner has been a volunteer for the organization since 1984. He first went to live a solitary life in the blue mountains of Sydney at age 19, and then chose to became a monk for 14 years and dedicate himself to meditation and the study of India’s ancient spiritual teachings. In 1995, he established Food for Life Global to spread the project throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas, mitigating hunger with vegan food and the support of thousands of spontaneous helpers ready to serve.
His first arrived in Colombia in August 2013 and he now plans to stay. Not only because he is convinced that the fruits and vegetables of the country are extraordinary and nutritious, but also because one of the charity’s main volunteers and his fiancé, Juliana Castaneda is Colombian. They met during the development of the project in Bogota. Juliana also manages an animal sanctuary in Guasca (Cundinamarca) called Paramatma Animal Sanctuary, where she cares for 21 dogs, 7 cats , a horse, a cow and a ox. The animals enjoy the same joy of vegan food that FFLG provides to humans.
With the same enthusiasm he had when he first started, Turner told me of the efforts of volunteers in war zones like Bosnia and Herzegovina, serving meals in orphanages, hospitals and nursing homes, and how the Hare Krishnas distributed more than 20 tons of vegan food, and how, over the decades, they have delivered hot food to many survivors of devastating earthquakes in Haiti, the Philippines, Japan, Nicaragua, Chechnya, and so many other natural or manmade disasters. Food for Life Global has always been there with their mobile kitchens and vans delivering “food for life.”
He learned to cook when he was a monk in the early 80s and often had to cook for over 300 guests for the Sunday temple guests in Sydney. Now he continues to expand the mission to the ends of the world.
In his last visit in late March, for example, he shared a delicious vegan lunch with the President of Uruguay, José Mujica, prepared by his team. The menu was sweet potato, spinach subji, lemon rice, lentil soup, avocado salad, samosas, mango chutney, and a coconut milk, mango drink.
The plan now is to start a Food for Life project in Montevideo. Local Uruguayan sports journalist, Pepe Mansilla, who participated in the lunch will be the driving force behind the project and will direct the operations. Turner knows it’s a matter of replicating the experience they have in India — delivering fresh and hot meals to more than two million school children. “Each of the meals can be produced for as little as 20 cents,” he emphasised, and he has the volunteer training and operations manuals to support the effort.
His Colombian fiancé, Juliana Castaneda, added that in this country it would be easy to implement such a project. As Turner explained, “Colombia has some of the most nutritious fruits and vegetables in the world. Not to mention the variety of nuts and seeds, quinoa, maca, cacao, millet, amaranth, banana and melons.”
He then showed his new book, FOOD YOGA – Nourishing, Body, Mind & Soul, which encapsulates what he has been teaching for the last 15 years in over 60 countries — “the yoga of eating,” which he explained can become a daily spiritual ritual for a “healthy life.”
His teachings include an offering meditation, and he explained how a vegan prasadam diet is not only perfect to satisfy hunger, but also supports a more sustainable agriculture. As he learned from his spiritual teacher, A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who 40 years ago inspired Food for Life, “It’s our mission to feed body, mind and soul,” he insists. Turner teaches this message through seminars, books, and videos — an intense intellectual activity to ensure his message continues to grow around the world.
With the same enthusiasm that highlights other facets of his creative personality, he is also a billiards instructor and has even written a book on how to play better billiards. He also developed a system of geometric symbols or mystic diagrams called yantras, based on numerology that encapsulate, through art, the energetic vibration of a person’s name and date of birth. However, he reaffirms, “My primary mission is to fight world hunger.”