“Feed the Poor and Remember God”
Someone asked Maharaj-ji, “How can I get enlightened?” and he replied, “Feed people.”
At the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos we feed from one to three hundred people lunch each Sunday and provide from one to five hundred additional meals throughout the week depending on the season. At festivals held 5 times yearly we serve up to nine-hundred people at grand feasts of Maharaj-ji’s Prasad.
“God Comes to the Hungry in the Form of Food”
Maharaj-ji’s Taos ashram feeds people in the tradition of Maharaj-ji’s ashrams in India. His ashrams in the hill areas of India were constructed in a region where many villagers struggled to get adequate nutrition.
“When the sweets were being distributed, some old people and the children started eating them right there. Babaji came several times during the distribution. He said that anyone who wanted to eat the laddus here should be given as many helpings as they could eat. ‘It is Hanuman-ji’s bhandara. You need not be worried about anybody not receiving Prasad.’ One old woman began crying, ‘No one has ever fed me like this before.’”
-Dada Mukherjee from “By His Grace” writing about holding a Bhandara, or feast, at Maharaj-ji’s ashram in Kainchi
Surprisingly, even in an affluent country like the U.S., people still suffer from hunger.
- 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children.
- 13 percent of households (15.8 million households) were food insecure.
- 5 percent of households (6.3 million households) experienced very low food security.
- Households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 17 percent compared to 11 percent.
- Households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (17%), especially households with children headed by single women (30%) or single men (22%).
Food insecurity refers to USDA’s measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Food insecure households are not necessarily food insecure all the time. Food insecurity may reflect a household’s need to make trade-offs between important basic needs, such as housing or medical bills, and purchasing nutritionally adequate foods.
Food insecurity exists in every county and congressional district in the country. But not everyone struggling with hunger qualifies for federal nutrition assistance.
Food insecure people people in the United States: 48,135,000
Food Insecurity rate in the United States: 15.4%
ESTIMATED PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY AMONG
FOOD INSECURE PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES
26% Above Other Nutrition Program threshold of 185% poverty
19% Between 130%-185% poverty
54% Below SNAP threshold 130% poverty
AVERAGE COST OF A MEAL: $2.89
ADDITIONAL MONEY REQUIRED TO MEET FOOD NEEDS: $24,558,800,000
IN NEW MEXICO:
Food insecure people people in New Mexico: 358,770
Food Insecurity rate in New Mexico : 17.2%
ESTIMATED PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY AMONG
FOOD INSECURE PEOPLE IN NEW MEXICO
25% Above Other Nutrition Program threshold of 185% poverty
4% Between 165%-185% poverty
71% Below SNAP threshold 165% poverty
IN TAOS COUNTY:
Food insecure people people in Taos County: 5,400
Food Insecurity rate in Taos County: 16.4%
% Below SNAP threshold 165% poverty
20% Above Other Nutrition Program threshold of 185% poverty
4% Between 165%-185% poverty
76% Below SNAP threshold 165% poverty
AVERAGE COST OF A MEAL: $3.37
ADDITIONAL MONEY REQUIRED TO MEET FOOD NEEDS: $3,211,000
Statistics on hunger in America courtesy of Feeding America. For more information visit www.feedingamerica.org
“They would rather waste and throw away than give to others…”
Another aspect of serving the hungry and one which is often overlooked is the issue of food waste. This is something which Maharaj-ji was very aware of when it came to Prasad distribution in his ashrams.
“Those who lived with him in the ashrams saw for themselves how Babaji used to emphasize giving food to the people and being alert about it. He had his way of pulling up people in case of any lapses. Often he did not tell the person concerned directly about it, but would accuse or rebuke someone else in order to teach others. Dada would be very handy in these cases. When someone was putting more food in the packets than could be consumed, Baba would say, ‘Dada will squander away everything. He doesn’t use his brain, but goes on giving away. There is so much wastage of Hanumanji’s Prasad.’ After seeing dissatisfaction on the faces of people taking the Prasad, Baba would say, ‘Dada is becoming excessively greedy. He gives so little Prasad.’
There is no better opportunity to help feed the hungry and reduce our environmental footprint than tackling the challenge of food waste. -Food Waste Reduction Alliance
Food waste is exactly what it sounds like: any food substance that is discarded. It can be raw or cooked, solid or liquid. It’s generated by the processing, handling, storage, sale, preparation, cooking and serving of foods; so it can happen anywhere along the supply chain, from the farm to the manufacturer to the retailer or restaurant, and in our homes or at work.
It is estimated that 25-40 percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed.
In 2010 alone, the FWRA estimates that around 60 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S., of which nearly 40 million tons went to landfill. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more food reaches landfills than other type of municipal solid waste.
The opportunity and the need to reduce food waste have never been greater. Reducing food waste in the U.S. can deliver significant environmental, social and economic benefits.
When food waste decomposes in a landfill, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In fact, landfills are responsible for one-third of all methane emissions in the United States. Keeping food waste out of landfills will result in reduced methane emissions. Also, growing food requires many resources, including water and energy. Wasted food is a waste of the resources used to grow it.
Eliminating food waste at the source is the preferred approach. But when food waste is generated, it can be recycled into compost or energy, which offer a number of environmental benefits. Compost improves soil health and structure, increases drought resistance, and reduces the need for other fertilizer. Also, food waste doesn’t create methane in a compost system the way it does in a landfill. Food waste can also be turned into renewable energy through anaerobic digestion, where the methane emissions from broken down food are captured to produce biogas, heat and energy.
Some of the food waste generated in the U.S. is actually not waste at all, as it is safe to eat and nutritious. In these instances, the food can be donated to food banks and other anti-hunger organizations, keeping it out of landfills while helping those in need.
Reducing the volume of food wasted in food manufacturing, retailing and foodservice operations means reducing the overall costs of these operations. Efficient, cost-effective companies are best positioned to deliver affordable products to consumers, grow, create jobs and support their communities.
Farm to Table
Another way to save resources and ensure food security is by growing food locally, either at home or in a community garden, or by supporting local farmers by purchasing food at farmers’ markets.
The Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos supports Hanuman’s Garden, our on-site permaculture farm. Next month, in “Feed Everyone: Part Two” find out about some of the challenges and benefits of growing food to feed a community, learn about resources for growing your own food and discover the joys of eating locally and in season.
“Once in Allahabad, Ma and Maushi Ma were complaining to Babaji that they never had time to sit with him because they were always so busy in the kitchen, cooking the food and feeding the people. Babaji said, ‘Ma, I am with you in the house all the time. You are not away from me. The work that you are doing-cooking with your own hands and feeding the people-that is the highest sadhana for the householder. You mustn’t think you are missing anything.’” -Dada Mukherjee, “By His Grace”
Link to information sources of information on combatting food waste in homes and businesses:
Information on becoming waste-free:
Finding a local foodbank to donate to or volunteer at:
“On a feast day at the temple when I was quite young, they were giving out special sweets. Maharajji gave me a small leaf cup of these sweets that he had been keeping especially for me. Then he said, “You give those sweets back to me.” So I gave them to him, because I had such faith in him. He just put the leaf cup under his blanket and began distributing those sweets from under his blanket. I don’t know how he did it, but he gave a handful to each person in that huge crowd of at least a thousand people. I was so surprised. I couldn’t understand how he could be distributing so many more sweets than the number of sweets I had given him, so, being just a kid, I stuck my hand under his blanket and took out the leaf cup just to see. Maharaj-ji turned to me and said, ‘Now the magic is finished.’” -Rajida, “The Divine Reality”
“Serve the poor and remember God. You become one with Christ.” -Maharaj-ji