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Hi! Thank you so much for yesterday’s food. It was really tasty and filling. Tasting so many fresh vegetables after so long reminded me of my mom’s cooking. Being alone here, it’s like a dream receiving beans and all those veggies together. With the semester coming to an end and exams approaching, your food boxes are a great help! (Kaushika – CBD.)

The global coronavirus crisis has deeply impacted our everyday lives.  Many householders lost their jobs and small businesses shut, causing severe financial distress. People couldn’t afford daily expenses or even food. Because they were deprived of government support, casual workers, migrant workers and international students were the worst hit.

Our Bhakti Vriksha network felt for these people and wanted to help. We considered the services already being offered, restrictions on travel and association, our means and strengths, and our location. Our families are scattered across the western side of Melbourne, from Craigieburn in the north (where most of our families live) to Cairnlea, then Melton in the west and Point Cook in the south.

After much discussion, we decided to deliver packaged prasadam to those in need. Families would be happy to receive food. It would help students to focus on their studies without worry. Most importantly, they would all receive the mercy (prasadam) of Srila Prabhupada and Sri Krishna.

We contacted our councils to check their requirements to allow us to distribute cooked food. Although non-profit organisations welcomed donations of groceries, they didn’t want to deliver food. So we decided to go-it-alone, advertising through social media and word-of-mouth, and creating daily rosters for cooking (Matajis) and deliveries (Prabhus).

We planned to start delivering to Craigieburn, Epping, Roxburgh Park and Greenvale. It was a great feeling to receive our first request for help, but it was from a family in the CBD and Reservoir, out of our delivery area. In spite of this, our delivery team rose to meet the challenge.

In the coming days we received requests from all over Melbourne: Bundoora, Meadow Heights, Mill Park, Delahey, Fawkner, Thomastown and more. They came from single mums, international students, casual workers and isolated families.

Every day, Matajis cooked sumptuous meals with desserts.  Although they were already caring for their families, they were eager to cook for those in need and to distribute Krishna prasadam, thinking, ‘I am doing this for Krishna.’

The Prabhus, busy working throughout the day, were keen to pack and deliver prasadam in the evenings. Sometimes they drove an hour each way, and sometimes they formed relay teams to execute delivery.

Some people who requested food were only eating once a day, some hadn’t eaten for three days. Some who called for food lived too far away. We felt we couldn’t deliver to them, but they were desperate. Then other devotees stepped in to help: Yogeswara Govinda Dasa and Guru Gauranga Krishna Dasa helped us to honour long-distance requests.

Seeing our success, others came forward to donate money or groceries. The Temple managers helped with grocery supplies. Cash donations were used to buy packaging.

Like every group, we had differences of opinion. Matajis competed to cook because they all wanted more and more service!

Srila Prabhupada desired that no one should go hungry within 15 kilometres of Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandira. In so doing, he created the global Food For Life initiative. Our humble service was a drop of water in the worldwide ocean of Food For Life deliveries. By Krishna’s mercy, we pray that one day hunger will be eradicated and that this world will become a better place.

At the time of writing this article, we look forward to the time when – as restrictions ease – everyone is able to return to work and will no longer need our service. We hope to invite those who have shown interest in our community to meet with our Bhakti Vriksha members.

Here’s more feedback:

  1. Hi Sri Ram Das, thanks for your kindness in offering free food to those in need during this difficult time. I do private tutoring for maths, Mandarin and Cantonese, however, most lessons are cancelled now. I am happy to provide free online lessons to your kids or you in return. Yu Fung, Teacher (Kalkallo)
  2. Dhokla was soo yumm. Thank you. Yash Gori (CBD)
  3. The coconut ladoo was so good. Even our landlord loved it. Pratyush (CBD)
  4. Thank you so much for the great initiative. David (Meadows Heights)
  5. Thank you so much for the good food. It was really yummy, and we all loved the taste and the quality: really good. Prachi (CBD)
  6. As a student we faced a lot of difficulties during the COVID-19 situation, both financially and mentally. The food boxes provided to us by Mr Sridhar and Co. were so helpful and supportive. Each penny counts and each help is valued. The best part is that the foods are fantastic, home-made and fill our stomachs. There were no restrictions and they delivered to us daily as per our requirements. Thank you all for your help. Nishant (Bundoora)
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