By Maureen McNair
Deer Park Monastery, located on 400 acres in the chaparral mountains near Escondido, is a monastery established in 2000 under the guidance of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, peace activist, and author Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a mindfulness practice center and monastic training center with two hamlets, one for monks and laymen and another for nuns and laywomen.
Recently, the Deer Park monastics agreed to host for 90 days monastics from the Blue Cliffs Monastery located in New York State. Blue Cliffs is also a monastery established under Thich Nhat Hanh’s guidance.
Congregant Marge Wurgel, one of the founding members of the Open Heart Sangha, a Buddhist meditation group in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, recently put out the call for food donations for Deer Park. Thanks to your generosity, the South Bay Food Pantry has been able to provide several deliveries and hundreds of pounds of food for the people who are now living at Deer Park. We have teamed up with Bruce Higgins, a member of the Dharma Bums Temple which is has been closed since the COVID-19 lockdown. Bruce has driven bulk shelf stable vegan food such as rice noodles, beans, peanut butter, and oatmeal up to Deer Park. In addition, Bruce joined me one weekday at a fresh produce food distribution on Imperial Avenue in San Diego open only to members of Feeding San Diego, not to individuals.
We did not know what type of fresh produce would be available until the delivery truck arrived. It turns out, there were russet potatoes, yellow squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The produce was ripe and ready to eat. Most of it was in good condition. I only saw a few tomatoes with mold already growing on them. One of the things pantry volunteers spend a lot of time doing is sorting spoiled produce from edible produce. Feeding San Diego’s current standard is that pantry’s have to accept an entire donation if up to 40% of the donation is not edible. So, with only a few moldy tomatoes in hundreds of pounds of food, this was a really easy load of food to handle before delivering it to the monks and nuns.
The delivery truck driver said the tomatoes had been grown in southern Mexico. By the time the tomatoes reached the produce wholesalers on the border, they were too ripe to sell to grocery stores. So, the wholesalers donated the tomatoes to the food bank which passed them onto us.
Bruce drove the load of fresh produce up to Deer Park that day.
Our food pantry will continue to donate food to the monastics at Deer Park at their request. It is a great privilege and joy to provide food for such gentle people.
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