Activists and religious leaders from The Federation of Hindu Mandirs in New York got together and distributed some 400 food hampers over the last week to bring relief to families in need in the New York area during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The federation comprises many mandirs and is the body that helps to organize the Holi Parade, Diwali Celebration, Ramayana in the Park, among other religious events. The organization also helps people in distress.
The hampers were distributed over several days to seniors with a focus on needy and disadvantaged, especially those who lost their jobs and are not recipients of government tax stimulus checks. According to Balram Rambrich of Arya Samaj USA, the organizers are motivated by a desire to mitigate the effects of Covid on food.
The coordination and preparation of the hampers took place at the Surya Narayan mandir led by spiritual leader Pt. Ram Hardowar, who is also head of the Federation. Pt. Rishi Misir is Dharmacharya of the Federation. Vedo Basdeo and other volunteers assisted with the organizing, packaging, and distribution of the hampers. Pt. Ram said they did a fantastic job worthy of the highest praises and merits for their act of kindness. He also thanked the donors for their generosity.
The organizers received donations from several individuals and mandirs. Indo-Caribbeans, many of who lost their jobs, have donated towards the effort to help those severely affected by the pandemic. Packaging of hampers was all done by a group of volunteers from several mandirs and was carried out at Surya Narayan Mandir in Jamaica. The hampers contained common, everyday food items such as rice, sugar, salt, flour, oil, ghee, carrot, cabbage, potatoes, onions, garlic, dhal, channa, blackeye, and chowmein, etc.
According to Balram Rambrich, the initiative was taken to help combat the food crises brought on by the pandemic, which has left many Indo-Caribbean people as well as others facing hardship due to loss of income. Since the start of the Covid in early March resulting in a partial lockdown and loss of job, many (including Indo-Caribbeans) have depended on food banks, several of which are operated by Indo-Caribbean people in Queens. Some three quarters of the recipients of food banks operated by Indo-Caribbeans are non-Indians. Food banks don’t discriminate against anyone regardless of ethnic or religious background.
The Federation of Hindu Mandirs decided to launch its own food operation to help people in the community. The need has been enormous since the Covid. The Indo-Caribbean community has been hit hard with Covid with thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths. Tens of thousands lost their job. Several victims are members of mandirs.
The federation intends to continue its distribution. Packing hampers for distribution has been done using as few persons as possible, maintaining social distancing so as to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In addition to distributing food hampers, the federation also distributed face-masks that are used as a preventive measure against the spread of the virus. The federation also encourages adherence to other preventative measures such as social distancing, frequently washing hands with soap and warm water.