The World Vegan Summit was held at the Marriot hotel in Marina del Rey, California from March 20-22 with over 300 attendees. Director of Food for Life, Paul Rodney Turner was a guest speaker, giving a talk on the work of Food for Life Global volunteers from around the world in the main ballroom to a packed crowd.
Turner started his presentation by sharing his experience as a monk for 14 years and how his first service in the ashram was cooking and feeding people in need. “I eventually learned to cook for very large numbers,” he said. “One time I made a feast for 10,000 people.”
Host of the event, radio personality Bob Linden introduced Paul and mentioned to the audience that Food for Life Global affiliates were now serving over 1.5 million meals daily, to which the crowd were stunned to hear. “We are actually the world’s largest food relief,” explained Turner. “But we also happen to serve only vegan meals.”
Turner then went on to explain the essence of Food for Life Global’s objectives: to unite the world through pure food and how this mission objective came to be. “The United Nations has spent billions on trying to solve world hunger, but they are missing an essential component, he said. “World hunger is not because of a lack of food, it is, as admitted by the United Nations, because of inequitable distribution. But no one is asking why is there an inequitable distribution? The reason for that is spiritual inequality. If the people of the world really embraced spiritual equality, there would be no hint of racism, specism, or any kind of discrimination and world hunger would disappear overnight.”
Turner then showed video highlights of Food for Life projects around the world, to which the audience was amazed and many cried.
In the afternoon, Turner did a food yoga presentation and demonstrated how to make raw, vegan chocolate chip mint ice cream and raw vegan brownies.
Director of Food for Life Global, Paul Rodney Turner was chosen as one of the special guest chefs at the Food & Wine festival in Bogota, Colombia (August 27-31). The festival is held all over the world and has been held in Bogota the last 4 years. Paul was one of 40 International chefs to participate in this prestigious culinary festival. He was the only Australian chef and one of only two chefs presenting a vegan dish over the 4 days.
The event kicked off with Beatriz Fernandez welcoming the attendees and sharing her philosophy of preparing meals with love. She pointed to Paul Turner and told the audience how happy she was to have him and was looking forward to hearing about food yoga and the spiritual side of cooking. Beatriz then demonstrated one of her restaurant’s signature wraps. Pablo Castro “Dr Cow” followed her presentation with a demonstration on how to make a raw vegan granola and sesame milk. Then Paul and his fiancé Juliana Castañeda took the stage and while Juliana translated, Paul wowed the crowd with a raw vegan chocolate mousse and toasted granola, while explaining the essence of what Food Yoga is: connecting with food in such a way as to nourish our body, mind and soul. The audience was immensely pleased with his talk and many said it was the highlight of the event.
Paul Rodney Turner was born in Australia and is Director of Food for Life Global, the biggest vegan organization in the world with projects in more than 50 countries. This charity subsidiaries include free schools, orphanages, cows shelters, and kitchens of food distribution which daily serve more than 3 million of fresh meals around the world.
At his 19, he joined to the Vaisnava Bhakti Yoga tradition and lived as a monk for 14 years. Since 30 years ago, Paul has realised investigations about Vedas of India and the Yoga tradition.
Paul was member of IVU (International Vegetarian Union); and was senior consultant for The World Bank during 10 years. He is a gourmet chef of the Indian cuisine and Crudi – Vegan chef. His hobbies include numerology and the creation of yantras (talismans) that he designs.
During his work as volunteer for Food For Life, Paul has visited more than 65 countries, has realised training seminars in 35 countries and regions of the world, as well as the coordination of disaster relief projects, including the Asian tsunami in 2004, Katrina Hurricane in 2005 and Japan tsunami in 2011. Paul is also the author of 5 books including Food Yoga – nourishing body, mind & soul, and The Yoga of Pool.
Join director of Food for Life and “food yogi,” Paul Rodney Turner for a 6 day food yoga retreat in the spectacular Dharma Shala Eco Retreat in Brazil. The ultimate goal of the retreat is to inspire you to live your life more consciously and to make food choices and your relationship with food more meaningful and nourishing to your body, mind and soul.
As humans, we resonate to “five”-ness, therefore, your retreat will unfold and nourish your body, mind and spirit through reconnecting with the 5 principle elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. Each day we will immerse ourselves in one of the elements – understanding how that elements expresses itself in nature, our body, food, music and activities.
Food Yogi on the Healthy You TV show
Our Food Yogi team have created a special program for helping you become fully immersed in each one of the elements, through theory and practical activities on the first day and then an excursion the following day where we will all experience the full power of each element and discuss what we’ve learnt. We will spend one whole day on each of the five main elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether) culminating in a feast where everyone will be involved in putting their food yoga skills to practice.
Arrival (23 September)
4pm: Registration begins
7pm: Meeting the teachers
DAY 1 – EARTH (24th September)
5:30am: Morning Sun gazing (optional)
9:00am: Introduction to Food Yoga
9:30am: Immersion in Earth
Yoga asanas for grounding
Organic Gardening & Cow Protection
11:30am: Learning about Earth foods
12:00pm: Kitchen: Earth food creations
How to make non-leavened breads
3:30pm: Workshop: Making Incense
4:30pm: Workshop: Introduction to Reiki
7:30pm: Earth Music Jam
9:00pm: Stargazing (optional)
DAY 2 – WATER (25th September)
5:30am: Morning Sun gazing (optional)
9:00am: Recap on Earth Immersion
9:30am: Immersion in Water (visit to waterfall)
Water guided Meditation
Water energetics with crystals and affirmations
11:30am: Learning about Water foods
12:00pm: Kitchen: Water food creations
7:30pm: Drum Circle
9:00pm: Stargazing (optional)
DAY 3 – FIRE (26th September)
5:30am: Morning Sun gazing (optional)
9:00am: Recap on Water Immersion
9:30am: Immersion in Fire
Chi Gong Exercises
Yoga for increasing fire
11:30am: Learning about Fire foods
12:00pm: Kitchen: Fire food creations
Spicy Kale Chips
4:00pm: Wedding Ceremony and fire sacrifice. Honouring the union of Paul (Priyavrata das) and Juliana (Jagannatha Priya devi dasi).
6:00pm: Dinner Vegan BBQ
7:30pm: Fire Music Circle & Fire Dancing (Bells, Cymbals)
9:00pm: Stargazing (optional)
DAY 4 – AIR (27th September)
5:30am: Morning Sun gazing (optional)
9:00am: Recap on Fire Immersion
9:30am: Immersion in Air (visit mountainous area)
11:30am: Learning about Air foods
12:00pm: Kitchen: Air food creations
3:30pm: Workshop: Introduction to Aromatherapy
4:30pm: Kitchen: Air food creations
Fig snack bar
7:30pm: Alchemy of Voice Singing & Dancing (Flutes and wind instruments, singing)
9:00pm: Stargazing (optional)
DAY 5 – ETHER (28 September)
5:30am: Morning Sun gazing (optional)
9:00am: Recap on Air Immersion
9:30am: Immersion in Ether
Affirmations (The 5 Noble Truths)
Mantra Meditation (Japa)
Food Offering meditation
11:30pm: Reiki & Aromatherapy Sessions
3:30-5pm: Depart by bus
In India, every “Holy Dhama” (sacred site) has its Dharma Shala (for hosting retreats). Vrindavan, the birthplace of Lord Krishna is one of the holiest places in India and inspired that tradition, the project Goura Vrindavan was born nearly 20 years ago. The crown jewel of the Goura Vrindavan project is the new Dharma Shala eco retreat. The founders of the project wanted that each guests could make their inner journey of spirituality, while also living in comfort and surrounded by the most sublime pleasures of nature.
Paul Rodney Turner, the “Food Yogi” is the international director of Food for Life and the co-founder of Food for Life Global (www.ffl.org), the world headquarters for the charity. Food for Life is the largest plant-based food relief in the world with projects in over 50 countries that serves up to 3 million meals daily. He is the author of 5 books, including FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul and The 5 Noble Truths. Paul is an accomplished vegan and raw gourmet chef, numerologist, yogi, and spiritual guide.
Juliana Castaneda Prana (www.julianaprana.com) is the first certified food yogini who directs the only vegan animal shelter in South America, Paramatma Farm (www.paramatmafarm.com). She is also an accomplished vegan chef, reiki healer, aromotherapist and spiritual intuitive. She is currently working on several cookbooks and a range of protective jewellery using the sacred tulasi wood.
Monday, 17 February, Bogota — Director of Food for Life, Paul Rodney Turner me one of the most powerful media men in Colombia, Mr. Jorge Cardona, the General Director of El Espectador, the company that manages all the leading magazines and the top newspaper in the country. Turner gave Mr. Cardona, a long time vegetarian, a copy of his book,FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soul which he graciously received.
“At the beginning of our meeting, Mr. Cardona informed me that we had something in common (alluding to Paul’s time as a monk and student of the ancient Indian Scripture). “He then produced a copy of the original edition of the Spanish Bhagavad Gita. He told me it was the most important book he had ever read, explained Turner.
The one hour interview covered broad topics, including Food For Life’s history and activities, the science of food yoga, the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita, vegetarianism, nutrition and FFL’s unique solution to ending world hunger.
Turner explained that the no amount of money, laws, policies or even food can solve world hunger if one critical issue is not addressed: inequality. Food for Life therefore addresses the root cause of hunger by the liberal distribution of pure plant-based meals, with the intention to demonstrate that each and everyone of us are part of one human family. Turner explained that although Food for Life is now the world’s largest food relief organisation, it’s agenda is to use food to create the unity, peace and equal prosperity that is so needed in this world. The science of food yoga, as outlined in his new book, expands on these concepts with some practical guidelines to help all people to adopt the ideal peace diet.
Paul showed Mr. Cardona the four page article on his life that appeared in Australian Yoga Life last year.
Both agreed to meet again when returned returned to Colombia with a promise to cook him a delicious vegan dinner.
On the 23rd of February, Food for Life volunteers in Bogota plan to feed 300 of Bogota’s most needy in celebration of its 40th year of service around the world.
I could hardly imagine Food for Life being so successful when I first became a volunteer way back in 1984. Back then, I worked as an assistant cook and server at a free food cafe called, Gopals in Parramatta, Australia. That was one of the first free food cafes set up by the Hare Krishna movement in Australia and it was a forerunner to other Food for Life projects throughout Australia.
The Beginning days
In 1974, Srila Prabhupada (1896 – 1977) the founder acharya of ISKCON and the pioneer of the kirtan movement in the West, was alarmed by some commotion outside the window of his room in India. He looked outside to see village children fighting off dogs over scraps of food that had recently been thrown out after a festival feast. The leaf plates still had some rice and curry stuck to them and that was just too much to ignore for these kids. Unfortunately, it was the same for the local street dogs and they wanted those remnants. The children waved sticks and screamed while the dogs sneered with the hair on their backs fully raised. It was war and from the swami’s view point and no one was a winner. He stood there in silence and cried. “How can this be?” he wondered. Feeling guilty that he had just finished his lunch, he called his students to come and see what was happening. “Do you see how hungry those children are?” he told them. “This is a temple of God and where there is God the father there should be no hungry children…No one within a ten mile radius of our temples should go hungry! Begin feeding these children immediately!”
Back then the program was called ISKCON Food Relief and it only operated in Mayapur, West Bengal. The yoga students dutifully fed the local people everyday and even provided hot meals to stranded villagers when the Ganges river overflowed her banks. A few days later, Srila Prabhupada asked that the program expand to all towns and villages in India. He saw the program as a means to break down barriers and create peace in society.
“I am hopeful that if we can widely distribute free foodstuffs to the people of India, by giving it out at our centers as well as by traveling parties to villages, we will win over the whole country and the whole world by this activity on Krishna’s behalf” (SP Letter to Satyajit, March 16, 1974).
Although the swami never officially founded ISKCON Food Relief, the precursor to Food for Life, he was indeed the inspiration behind it with these words and many other instructions he gave to his students.
In 1979, however, the project took on a new direction with the opening of a small soup kitchen in Sydney, Australia leading the way.
A new branding
From the back entrance of the ISKCON temple in Kings Cross (Sydney), Australia, Krishna monks began serving hot meals to the homeless. Soon hundreds of people were lining up daily and the local news began reporting on it. It was a sensation at the time, because the Krishna devotees were badly misunderstood in Australia, often being arrested for singing on the streets; so this new spotlight of good feelings towards them took everyone by surprise. The communications director for ISKCON, Mukunda das noted the success and the improved public perception of the members and went on a worldwide campaign to encourage the same in every temple in ISKCON. But the first order of business was to rebrand the program to something more memorable; something less religious — after all what the program stood for was to show compassion for all living beings. The name ISKCON Food Relief did not exactly carry that message so well, so he got together with head of ISKCON Television, David Shapiro (Nrsimhananda Das) and the “Aussie Einstein,” Yasomatinandana Das to brainstorm a new brand. Sitting in a pyramid temple in California they came up with the new brand, Hare Krishna Food for Life, with the tag line: Feeding the Hungry Worldwide.
7 minute new clip on Food for Life in Sydney
The new program with some basic guidelines in place soon spread throughout the USA and Western Europe. By the time I started volunteering in 1984 the project was pretty well established in most developed countries, however, by the late 80s many of these programs had faded, either due to a lack of funding, professional management or abuse by some unscrupulous fundraisers, causing some programs, like the one in New York to close down completely.
Food for Life Newsletter
By 1989, I started to focus on the power of the Food for Life project to educate people on the basic principles of spirituality and morality. More than simply a food relief for poor people, I saw Food for Life as a way to unite people in a spirit of family. Food for Life was all about reviving the ancient culture of spiritual hospitality that was so famous in India. By 1990, I fully embraced this concept and began writing about it in my Food for Life Newsletter that went out to volunteers throughout Australia. I furiously studied all of what Srila Prabhpada said about this ancient practice of prasadam distribution and learned that he had actually been promoting it ever since he set foot in America in 1966!
“Everywhere. In the hospitals, charitable societies, Industrial places, everywhere—distribute this prasada and chant this Hare Krishna. Just see what is the result. You want peace? These are the processes of peace.” (SP lecture, New York December 16, 1966)
“What had happened to this clear message” I wondered.
Then in 1991, Mukunda who was now a swami encouraged me to write my FFL Newsletter for the worldwide volunteer community, sharing what I had learned from studying Prabhupada’s teachings and in my own experience with Food for Life, some of which included getting endorsements for Food for Life from influential political leaders, celebrities and news media. Below I invited all the leading dignitaries, including chief of police, president of the chamber of commerce, mayor of Sydney and local MP, Ms. Clover Moore who is currently the very popular mayor of Sydney.
I used a Mac Plus computer to design the Newsletter, then pasted it up, printed it and mailed out hundreds of copies around the world using my own money. By 1992 I had revived enthusiasm in the Food for Life project and inspired a whole new generation of volunteers that were coming out of the Eastern European countries, like Russia, Georgia, Latvia and Slovenia, etc.
Then in 1993, I left Australia to fuel this new momentum in Food for Life, first landing in India, the home of the project and then Russia, where I did a 6 month tour of the continent; at one point visiting 44 cities in just two months. That adventure in itself is a whole book. It was at that time that I worked on the first edition of the Food for Life Training Manual. Surprisingly, the program was now officially 19 years old, but no one had bothered to write up a training manual. I took on the task with enthusiasm. By 1994 my 200 page Training manual was complete. This new book provided the guidance, insight and philosophical grounding that Food for Life volunteers needed in an ISKCON culture that had been overrun with dry intellectuals. Food for Life was something that translated the deep philosophical tenants of the culture in practical terms. We are all spirit; we are all family; all living beings are children of God and our spiritual dharma is unconditional loving service. Since food is the centre of every culture, serving delicious meals with love was the most efficient way to express that understanding and people loved it!
Hare Krishna Food for Life continued to expand throughout the 90s under various new names, simply because in some countries, the name Food for Life did not make sense. So for example, in Armenia, the program was called “Bread for Life” and in Lithuania it was called “Food for Soul”. In South America, “Alimentos Para La Vida” worked well. The branding may have been adjusted, but what remained consistent was the focus of the program — that everyone get a chance to eat blessed food (prasadam*).
One of the highlights of those tours to the Former Soviet were visiting volunteers in Sukhumi, Georgia (1993) and then later in Chechnya (1995) where I witnessed FFL volunteers putting their lives on the line to serve hot meals to refugees of the wars taking place there. During my time in Moscow I visited all the major western media offices and eventually our story was told in a page 4 article in the New York Times (See: KRISHNAS BAKE BREAD IN ONE OF RUSSIA’S BROKEN CITIES).
Around this time, our Mascot, Prasadam Das (Servant of Prasadam) was born. We wanted to convey a sense of fun with our image without characterising him as a Hare Krishna volunteer, although even then, we couldn’t help ourselves giving him a tuft of hair (sikha) and adorning his chef hat with the sacred tilak symbol. But it was subtle and he did have pants on and not an Indian dhoti.
In 1996, while still a monk, I produced the first Food for Life music CD with the aim of immortalising our message in sound. Through the lyrics of those songs I tried to share my understanding of what Srila Prabhupada envisioned, however, the message of the charity and indeed myself were still very much influenced by my Hare Krishna roots. I knew something was just not right and although done sincerely, it missed the mark with most people. What was needed was something more accessible; something universal and something that resonated with everyone from all walks of life.
Teach a man how to fish
During the late 90s, I spoke at Vegetarian conferences around the world about the work of Food for Life and what it stood for. I would also typically give a presentation on the spiritual aspect of Food for Life and teach people about the benefits of offering their food to God as a way to nourish their mind and spirit too. It was during this time in my life I thought deeply about the words of Srila Prabhupada, “Everyone should get a chance to take prasadam.” I thought if there are only so many of us volunteers, how will it be possible to give everyone in the world the experience of this beautiful “love” food? And then it hit me…
This famous maxim rang true for me and set me on a whole new course in my Food for Life career. Teaching people about the ancient Hindu tradition of offering food to the Gods was a nice addition to my Food for Life presentations, but for most people, it just didn’t sit right with them. After all, they were not Hindus and many of them had lost all faith in the concept of a personal form of God. To offer food was a very big jump in faith. Solving this problem became a constant meditation for me into the new Millennium. What was needed, I surmised, was a completely non-sectarian approach to solving this riddle.
In 1995, after visiting about 30 countries in two years, I made Washington DC my base and with the help of Mukunda Goswami we established Food for Life Global to serve as the official headquarters for all Food for Life projects around the world. The new charity would establish standards and provide the guidance, training and inspiration needed to push the program on. Unexpectedly, we also became the central office for emergency relief coordination. As a result, I have been involved, in some way or another, with every major relief effort of Food for Life over the last 20 years.
Midday Meal Program
By the early 2000s, there was a resurgence in the Food for Life program in India. This was partly due to the tremendous economic boom taking place in India with the expansion of the Internet. People had much more money now and they wanted to spend it. The Indian government was also flush with cash and so the president of India declared that all children in India must get a free lunch provided by the government.
ISKCON temples in India formed a new organisation, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation, aka “Food for Life Annamrita” to also participate in the Indian Government’s Midday Meal initiative. Over the next 10 years, both foundations have continued to raise the bar of professionalism and efficiency, with each receiving numerous awards and accolades from the Media, Government and United Nations. Both foundations, which are the two principle affiliates of Food for Life Global, now each serve up to 1.3 million meals daily!
The Great Tsunami of 2004
While employed with the World Bank as a web developer I continued my volunteer work for Food for Life Global, working mostly from my office at home. However, after news of the devastating tsunami spread across the Internet, I began getting calls from donors and volunteers asking FFLG to respond. This event was unprecedented and so it would require an unprecedented response. With the help of the Traveling Monk Indradyumna Swami we devised a plan to provide hot meals to survivors in Sri Lanka. Over the next week I started promoting Food for Life’s plan to respond and asked for donations and volunteers. Well nothing could prepare me for what happened next. We literally got over 500 volunteer applications from people of all walks of life, police officers, military vets, nurses, doctors, film directors, actors, dancers, you name it — I was overwhelmed. Soon tens of thousand of dollars in donations started pouring in and so we now had people and money to actually execute our plan.
In 2010, I started a new personal journey. Numerologically it was a year 9, meaning I was basically wrapping up all that had transpired over the last 9 years. And let me tell you, although I certainly did have some nice successes with Food for Life, including overseeing Food for Life’s relief efforts in Haiti, on a personal level it was challenging. I decided to take a fresh look at the riddle of how to give everyone a chance to take prasadam and what I discovered was the major obstacle in realising that ideal was bringing people to:
1: Give a damn; 2: Accept that there is indeed a Supreme Intelligence behind creation and that that powerful Creative Force has a form and personality. So the book I was to write needed to address these two points. I started my quest in a 24-hour New York cafe called Yaffa, working all night long, researching and typing as I drank rose petal tea. Over the next 18 months, my new book FOOD YOGA – Nourishing Body, Mind & Soultook shape, going through 30 revisions. I tried to build my presentation using logic, science and references from a variety of spiritual sources, just so that it was clear that I was not favouring Hinduism, nor trying to convert anyone to a Hare Krishna viewpoint. What I wanted was for my readers to embrace the importance of food on their spiritual quest and to adopt what I now called, “The Food Offering Meditation.” The book essentially was just building up to that one thing beginning with learning to see the presence of God in our day to day lives and appreciating the unconditional love of Mother Nature.
However, I also saw food yoga as the natural evolution of Food for Life, “the upgrade,” if you will, and how it was important that I be honest and share my experience as a monk and volunteer of the organisation — because in a sense my life was all about food yoga. In the end, my principle desire was to fulfil the ideal of Srila Prabhupada and thus help to expand Food for Life far beyond the limitations of any one religious organisation to that of a social revolution for unity, peace and prosperity with food as the preferred “weapon” of choice!
This comment by Srila Prabhupada set the tone for a new direction and marketing message for Food for Life:
“Simply by liberal distribution of prasada and sankirtana, the whole world can become peaceful and prosperous.” (Srimad Bhagavatam Purport, Verse: 4.12.10).
Food for Life was not a food relief, but rather an organisation focused on creating peace and prosperity in the world, which can only be possible when we have true equality. To position ourselves in the public eye as such we changed out tag line to: Uniting the World through Pure Food.
In 2013, I decided to travel all year and over just 9 months I visited 28 countries in total, lecturing at clubs and yoga studios; teaching FFL volunteers, holding FOOD YOGA workshops and documenting some of the bigger FFL projects. From that rather extensive marketing campaign for FFL and Food Yoga, I became convinced that the message we are sharing is universally appreciated. I truly believe that what Food for Life represents is not just a display of compassion for other humans, but in truth, the very essence of a solution to ALL world problems. In other words, since food is so central to every culture and so fundamental to our existence, it has the power to break down barriers, heal wounds, and unite everyone in a spirit of brotherhood. And that my friend is what Food for Life is really all about: Spiritual Equality. See: PEACE FORMULA
Now in 2014, having visited close to 70 countries, I look back and think, “Srila Prabhupada’s dreams are coming true.” Maybe we can give everyone a chance to experience pure food (prasadam) and through the liberal distribution of such food we can bring about peace and prosperity in this world once and for all.