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Tackling Food Insecurity and Economic Justice in NYC -Spotlight On A Signatory: Mandala Café

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

16 May 2023 – New York City, USA. Meeting with Rev. Daiken Nelson


Meeting with Rev. Daiken Nelson, Roshi and Founder and Executive Director of Mandala Café.

As I continue to look back at the One Billion for Peace World Tour this summer, I remember with special fondness my time in NYC in May meeting with Rev. Daiken Nelson, Roshi and Founder and Executive Director of Mandala Café.

How wonderful it was to get to spend time in person with Roshi Daiken! He is Founder and Executive Director of one of the first non-profits we ever invited to sign the One Billion for Peace Pledge. They are doing such inspiring work in one of the toughest urban centers in the USA: New York City, USA! This is exactly what the One Billion for Peace Pledge is all about: Local+Local+Local=Global. We don’t each have to solve this problem. Each of us can work on some part of it.

Climate crisis may seem so overwhelming and daunting at times, and yes, so depressing that we lose hope. Just yesterday a young person said to me, “There’s nothing we can do.” In the face of what seems like an insurmountable challenge to change the course of climate change and avert devastating impacts that will come to all of us, but mostly to the poor, we may feel powerless to address suffering. However, together we can face climate crisis with greater equity and resiliency. The power of the One Billion for Peace Pledge is recognizing that people such as Roshi Daiken and organizations like Mandala Café (www.mandalacafe.org) are already waging sustainable peace.

Check out how Mandala Café fulfills the One Billion for Peace Pledge! Mandala Café attends to the intersection of hunger and poverty by helping to promote physical, material, psychological and cultural+religious well-being for persons who are too often ignored or overlooked. Here's how they do it. It's so cool.

First, Mandala Café offers courses in culinary training to develop students’ chef/food service skills so that they may obtain stable employment in a commercial kitchen. Anyone is welcome, but the training prioritizes those who were formerly homeless, formerly incarcerated, youth, undocumented individuals, the underemployed or unemployed, and those who have struggled with substance addiction or mental health issues.

Second, since Daiken Nelson first dreamed up this vision in 2015, Mandala Café has served 34,365+ meals in Harlem, which also brought people together in 4,340+ volunteer hours of service.

Third, Mandala Café also promotes interfaith understanding – that “cultural/religious” part of sustainable peace in the One Billion for Peace Pledge. In the midst of the pandemic, Roshi Daiken, who is the Founder and Guiding Teacher of the Pamsula Zen Center in West Harlem, NYC, brought Mandala Café into a collaboration with Kehilat Romemu, a Renewal Judaism Synagogue to address food insecurity and economic justice in the Upper West Side of NYC (for more, go to https://romemu.org/what-is-romemu/). From Oct. 2020 until recently, this Mandala Café and Romemu collaboration provided over 8,100+ meals with 3000+ volunteer hours of service. In addition, Mandala Café provides meals to the 1 Freedom Ujamaa Community Fridge, Broadway Community Shelter, St. Joseph of the Holy Family Pantry, and Ascension Shelter. In all these efforts taken together, Mandala Café has handed out over 42,500+ meals to those experiencing food insecurity!

Now, Roshi Daiken is heading in a new direction with Mandala Café, with a focus on aiding the refugee community in NYC. We look forward to seeing where this powerhouse of a non-profit will go in its next phase! For us at BioEarth, Mandala Café has been an inspiring model for actively waging sustainable peace, promoting interfaith collaboration, and attending to the well-being of those who are the most marginalized in society—all parts of the global peace movement that is already underway. We’re so honored to have this excellent non-profit organization as one of the earliest signatories to the One Billion for Peace Pledge.

For more information and to donate, please see: www.mandalacafe.org.

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