Crazy for Krishna Lunches

$5 Karma-free meals come to New Eastside


It’s the middle of a Wednesday workday, but K.C. Brown is all smiles.

“It’s a gorgeous day … and I like that I don’t have to think,” said the Cision manager, sitting on a waist-high pillar outside the Blue Cross Blue Shield building. “It’s great.”

As he squinted toward Randolph Street, a crowd built behind him — a pair of female coworkers, then bigger clusters of South Asian men.

img_0685awebSuddenly “it” arrived —the white Krishna Lunch van, carrying twenty-plus lunches, coordinator Rasika Manjari Dasi, and a monk named Navina Krisna Das. Delayed by a few minutes, Dasi jumped out of the van, her sea-green sari catching the sun.

“Hey, K.C.!” she called as Brown waved back, a sizable line snaking behind him. In an instant smiles appeared and the wait was forgotten — just the kind of positive atmosphere the $5 “karma-free” lunches aim to promote.

Started four years ago at area college campuses, Krishna Lunch expanded to the New Eastside this summer. As Dasi explains, the vegetarian lunches, offered as service of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), present an opportunity to put your karma back in the black.

“When you make [the lunches] karma-free, you’re not collecting [karma] for reincarnation,” she said.

The meals are “Sattvic,” meaning prepared with love and offered with gratitude to the deity Krishnam a satisfying concept for discerning diners.

“We are all crazy about it,” said Jenish Shah, a contractor with Blue Cross Blue Shield who admits he’s fussy about “micro-organisms not being in cheese.” According to Shah, the “tasty” meals “take care of a balanced diet.”

The boxed lunches are prepared each weekday at the ISKCON temple in Rogers Park and are served outside 300 E. Randolph Street for a brief but busy ten minutes from 12–12:10 p.m. The meals include generous helpings of rice, a vegetable, and a main dish. Menus are posted at, and meals can be ordered up to 10 a.m. the day of (though Dasi advises ordering as soon as possible, since the van’s maximimum capacity is 100 meals).

For the lucky diner who’s low on cash—as well as “good” karma—Krishna Lunch occasionally offers excess meals to stragglers.

“People are so happy to get the box,” said Tinu Puthenveetil, who eats Krishna Lunches about twice a week.

So far, ISKCON, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has provided more than 3.8 billion vegetarian meals worldwide through its Food for Life program. Proceeds from the Chicago Krishna Lunch program go toward area homeless shelters.

For information, visit or call (773) 973-0900.

— Tricia Parker

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