Feeding the body and the soul

Every Friday morning Steve Szili heads to the Hare Krishna Temple in Potomac to cook meals that are meant to feed body and soul.

Szili leads the Potomac chapter of Food for Life, the world’s largest vegetarian food relief organization, according to its Web site. It is based in Hare Krishna — a faith rooted in the belief that a person’s thoughts and emotions go into everything they cook.

‘‘We believe when somebody cooks any food the person’s conscience goes into the cooking,” said Chaitanya Bhagavan Dasa, temple manager and head minister. ‘‘It’s not simply giving the food and satisfying one’s hunger, it’s also feeding the soul and satisfying the hunger the soul has.”

Food for Life is one of at least 10 outreach projects at the temple. At least 50 percent of the congregation helps by cooking with Szili, helping him with events or donating money.

The Hare Krishna Temple in Potomac has approximately 7,000 members and is the only one in the Washington, D.C., area, with the closest temple in Baltimore.

‘‘As members of the congregation get inspired they support different programs,” Dasa said. ‘‘There are people who donate money. There are people who bring supplies. There are people who bring time.”

Food for Life was established by two Hare Krishna monks in 1974 after the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, saw children fighting with dogs over scraps of food in India, according to the organization’s Web site. He then said that no one within a 10-mile radius of a Hare Krishna temple should be hungry.

Today, the organization distributes at least 1 million healthy vegetarian meals each day, according to Food for Life director Paul Turner. It has 20 programs in the United States as well as programs in 50 countries around the world, which include free food kitchens, emergency relief and educational programs in schools.