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For this interview feature, our editor-in-chief Bianca Polizzi had the opportunity to talk with Food For Life Global founder Paul Rodney Turner.
According to the Food For Life Global website, this notable food relief charity so far has “265 affiliate projects in 60 countries serving up to 2 million plant-based meals daily.” We couldn’t help but be fascinated about this incredible organization and its inspirational founder.
Read on and learn about how we, as individuals and businesses, in our own little ways can help in the battle against world hunger:
Hello, Paul! Can you tell me about Food For Life and explain exactly how it works and how you started this journey?
Thank you very much for the opportunity. My humanitarian story started way back when I was 19. At that time, I decided to be a monk, which was pretty radical for a boy that age, who’s from the western suburbs of Sydney. It’s the last thing you would imagine. I was a bit of a philosopher.
It really appealed to me. The idea of cultivating self-awareness, purifying my mind, controlling my senses, and so on. For the next 14 years, I practiced as a celibate monk. I lived very simply, slept on the floor. I used my hands as a pillow, pretty much, or just rolled up piece of cloth. I never had a bed, just a sleeping bag. I took cool showers, had a regulated diet, and we worked very hard during the day.
My first service just happened to be preparing food and feeding homeless people in Sydney.
I became really fascinated by that service and its ability to make connections with people on a deep level - and we all have this experience. When we sit around the dinner table to share food, all of the conflict, misunderstandings, and divisions that keep us apart during the day just melt away. I thought, “This is pretty powerful!”. Food has this amazing power to communicate, to break through barriers, to unite people.
Fast forward a little bit, I started my own food relief program. Food For Life back then was a very grassroots project, it only had maybe half a dozen projects around the world. About 10 years in, I was asked to set up the headquarters for the charity, to establish some formal organization. I wrote a training manual. I left Australia and migrated to the United States. I set up the headquarters. We called it Food For Life Global. I began traveling around the world, training and guiding other volunteers to set up their own programs.
Today, we now have 265 programs in 60 countries. I’ve personally visited 72 countries which is pretty amazing. I’ve been to three war zones. I’ve cooked for presidents. I’ve fed the homeless. I’ve visited slums. I’ve been exposed to a variety of situations across the world.
In all those cases, Food For Life’s ability to create this unity and sense of family has been a big draw for me, so much so that it’s become the mission of our organization. We believe that food has the power to unite and is actually the real solution to solving world hunger.
What I realized over my 38 years as a humanitarian is that it’s not simply about the amount of money that you have or the amount of food that’s going to solve social problems like world hunger. It’s deeper than that. What is required is cultivating a sense of unity, the sense of global family. We are all earthlings, ultimately. We are all spiritually and energetically connected. If we have that understanding taught from childhood and in our education departments, I think things like world hunger will just disappear overnight. Because we wouldn’t tolerate our brother or a sister going hungry.
Through that process of doing humanitarian work and traveling the world, at a certain point in time, I did get married. I was a celibate monk for 14 years and then I realized “Oh, I've gotta make some money”.
My natural inclination was to connect my business with my charity so I became a social entrepreneur. Through that experience, I have come to the point now where I‘ve developed one project which is called the OM Guarantee certification. We basically offer a way for companies to certify their social good. We measure that in the blockchain, we give them an actual, measurable social impact. So for donating X amount of dollars, they feed X number of children, they plant X number of trees, or feed X number of rescued animals.
That social enterprise, the OM Guarantee certification project, has now merged into a new cryptocurrency project called the Kindly Ecosystem where we’re basically developing all these financial products embedded with social impact as a way to make it easy for anyone to be kind. So just by doing your normal financial activities, you'll actually be making a measurable social impact. Our goal is to revolutionize the financial industry by making it easy for anybody in the world to be kind.
I have seen on the website that you can donate cryptocurrency and now you’ve got KindlyCoin, the world’s first social impact cryptocurrency coin, wallet, and exchange - which is just incredible news. I completely understand the idea of decentralizing the system and moving into this new era of technology and finance and freedom. It’s really interesting as well that you’re going to have that measurable social impact. Do you want to talk about that? Give us a little more detail on how people will be able to have measurable social impact.
You know the keyword there, Bianca, is “measurable” because typically, what I’ve experienced, not only in the non-profit sector but in the cause marketing sector is when companies sponsor charities, there’s not much measuring going on.
It's just about “Hey, I donated X amount of dollars to this charity.” Or if it's a company, “We contributed 1% to this charity or to this cause.” But what actually happens with that money? No one’s measuring it. You know, “1% to save the rainforest,” what does that mean? What actually happened? No one can tell you that. For the most part, it’s very vague.
As a result of that, a lot of money is misspent. A lot of money does not go to the actual programs. It doesn't actually reach the people that really need the help. That’s just the sad reality.
We’re trying to be different. At Food For Life Global, we give a specific, measurable output when people make a donation. If you donate $10, we guarantee that 20 needy people will receive a freshly-cooked vegan meal.
Similarly, with the OM Guarantee Certification, it’s built around measurable social impact. We offer an opportunity for companies to give back in a measurable way. So when they donate $1,000, they will get an absolute guarantee of feeding 2,000 needy children and then they’ll get a digital certification which is dynamically generated on their website, showing in real-time their social impact. More importantly, the transaction is captured in the blockchain so it can’t be changed, it’s socially-proven and so that way they can show their customers that, “Hey, we’re a good company. Here’s proof that we’re giving back and here’s the actual impact we’re making.” So that’s revolutionary. That’s the OM Guarantee and, essentially, the Kindly Ecosystem is extending that opportunity, making it easy for people in all spheres of life - not just companies, but individuals who are transacting on a debit card or trading crypto or whatever - to actually make a social impact in real time.
I think it’s the way that kind businesses are evolving into realizing their individual responsibility to the rest of the world and how we all make an impact that way. I think it is essential that we start moving into a kinder world.
Kinder world. Exactly! And you know, your generation - the Gen Z’s, the Millennials - they are the ones pushing this narrative. They are the ones pushing for companies to be more caring, to give back, to be more socially responsible. It’s the younger generation that’s pushing this. It’s like 85% of the younger generation are the ones that are pushing and changing this marketplace.
It just so happens it’s the same generation pushing cryptocurrency and the blockchain. So what we’re offering with the Kindly Ecosystem project is a merging of those two phenomena. We’re creating an opportunity for people to give back in a measurable way and they can also use crypto if they want to. It’s all captured in the blockchain so it’s provable and decentralized. It's really beautiful.
A lot of our audience is made up of mostly business owners and entrepreneurs. How easy is it for them to get involved in the OM Guarantee Certification?
That’s very easy. So what we have at the OM Guarantee Certification - and when we talk about the Kindly Ecosystem, the OM Guarantee Certification is a part of that ecosystem - it’s a certifying entity.
We have charities. Food For Life Global is one of the charity partners, plus we also have Juliana’s Animal Sanctuary and the Eden Reforestation Project. We are targeting, at this time, three social impacts: feeding rescued animals, feeding needy children, or planting trees. Our plan is to add more to those social impacts. For example, we’re just about to sign up another charity that’s working with cleaning up the oceans. We’re gonna add more social impacts but the key thing here is that we want to be able to measure it. If it can be measured, then we are interested in adding that social impact as part of the Kindly Ecosystem.
Of course, the third entity is the actual company that is the Kindly Ecosystem, which sort of puts all these together. So in terms of the OM Guarantee opportunity, companies can visit our website and register. First of all, they have to qualify. We don't offer this opportunity to just any company. You have to be a socially-responsible company. Depending on the industry sector, we set a certain criteria of qualification. For the food sector, you have to be vegan. For the travel sector, you don't have to be vegan but you have to have environmental policies intact. For the leisure sector, no child labor.
Once they register, they get to tick off boxes accordingly. They get a company profile page on our website and become a member. Membership signup fee is $200 and then they have the opportunity to purchase the social impact to whatever their budget allows. The beautiful thing about this is when they’re purchasing this digital asset, the OM Guarantee Certification, they can consider this as an advertising cost. It doesn't matter what part of the world they’re in. Typically when you’re making a donation to a charity, it’s only tax-deductible if it’s within your country whereas with the OM Guarantee Certification, it doesn't matter what country you’re in. You’re purchasing digital assets which are certifying a set number of social impacts and you can allocate that as advertising cost.
That’s really important for businesses to know.
It’s a sponsorship opportunity!
It’s genius! It does help as well knowing where customers go and see immediately that this is a kind business. Speaking about digital assets, I’d really like to learn more about your NFTs, the Milk and Butter Tokens, if you want to go into that a little bit.
The Butter Token was the first charity token on the Binance Smart Chain. They reached out to us in April asking, “Hey, Paul. We would like to donate to Food For Life Global, is that okay?” And I said, “Yes, of course, it is!” So we actually formed an official partnership with them. And that’s the only other cryptocurrency project that Food For Life is partnered with.
Food For Life is a partner with the Milk and Butter Token. When they joined the charity, I made it clear to them that for any advertising, they have to have ‘non-dairy vegan’ on the actual Milk and Butter logo so they agreed to that. It was fun! They have donated over $150,000 to date, which is tremendous.
It just goes to show the real power of cryptocurrency and why it’s so important for KindlyCoin to start making moves, and for everybody to get involved in that - and how easy it is as well. I think a lot of people are waking up to the importance of preserving our planet but it’s so difficult to know how to do good, with everybody’s busy schedules. This at least gives people an outlet to know that it's actually going towards something good.
Because even speaking for myself, I would feel a little bit anxious about donating to certain charities because of the negative media around a lot of charities, so how can you know who to trust, but with this being really measurable, I think that’s the key component here. It’s fantastic.
Measurable and kind and clean because, as I said, the food is all vegan. So anyone that’s done their research knows that meat and dairy contribute to global warming and planetary pollution. It’s so crazy that at COP26, they were serving steaks and beef. Anyone that’s done any sort of research knows that that’s just so hypocritical.
More and more people are starting to understand this because there are Netflix series that go deep into businesses and who is funding them.
Do you have any advice for those people who want to do good and are waking up to the idea of, “Hang on, I need to do something” but people are too busy. If they are not a big company, how can they get involved with Food For Life?
The first thing you need to understand is that, by nature, we are all spiritual. The body’s simply a vehicle. We’re expressing our consciousness through this physical form. Once we understand that true essence, as a soul, as a spark of God, then we can understand our natural quality of kindness is there. Kindness, compassion, empathy, and patience, all of these qualities are there but they’re being covered over by all the conditioning that comes with living in this material world. So understand your true essence, your true potential as a spiritual being. That’s the first thing. That way, you can tap into that kindness. It’s there! It just needs cleaning the mind and senses.
One of the ways you can do that - and I learned this as a monk - is by doing acts of unconditional service. When you just give for the sake of giving without any sort of desire for recognition, attention, or financial gain, that actually purifies the heart. It’s a very powerful way to cleanse the heart. So unconditional service is really who we are as human beings and if you can do that, it can cultivate that awareness.
In terms of helping with Food For Life Global, we have projects in 60 countries so there’s plenty of volunteer opportunities where you can visit one of the projects around the world like India, Africa, or South America and volunteer. You can also help virtually. We have advocacy opportunities.
You can also donate. As I said, on average, we can feed a child for 50 cents so every dollar donated will provide two freshly-cooked vegan meals. That’s something anybody can do. Once a week or once a month, you can donate $10, that’s 20 children getting freshly-cooked vegan meals.
Thank you so much, Paul, for your time and energy. Those interested to learn more about Food For Life Global may check out their official website or follow them on social media via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For additional information about Kindly Coin, visit kindlycoin.com.
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