In order for our children and youth to fully contribute to society, it is crucial…
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (p), Ghurar al-Hikam, #2, pg. 590
According to Hunger in America, 12.7 percent of U.S. households (15.8 million households, approximately one in eight) live in food insecure households.
We know there are many blessings associated with feeding others in need. However, what can we be doing beyond simply donating money? What are some actions we could be taking towards developing empathy as well as creating sustainable programs in our communities? The following are some key steps in taking action:
- Volunteering your time
- Using Social Media
Awareness essentially involves educating the community as to why there is a need for action and volunteerism around feeding those in need and creating self-sustainable programs. This can be achieved through posting blogs on your mosque’s social media sites and web pages with statistics on how many Americans are affected by hunger, specifically in your own community, as well as showing the importance of empathy and caring for others.
You can also ask speakers to dedicate a night to this topic, stressing the need for the audience to take action and join you in mobilizing around this cause. You do not have to limit yourself solely to the mosque; diversify your audience by reaching out to people at your school, college, work, and community centers.
Having a team of dedicated, committed, and driven volunteers, who share your motivation to help alleviate hunger in your community, is important for the sustainability of your goals and vision. Plan on discussing who you plan on serving: a local food bank, families and individuals in need, or the homeless, for example. Identify some areas where you can develop innovative solutions to avoid waste and redirect those resources to those you are serving.
Organize regular donation drives and fundraisers. For example, rather than wasting extra food left after programs at the mosque, schools, colleges, work and community centers, store anything uneaten to be delivered to a food bank the next day. Homeless shelters will often take leftover prepared food as well. It goes without saying that any donated food should be fresh. Another idea is to keep a food collection box for people to donate packaged foods, like water bottles, yogurt containers, or boxed food that is being served, but which people choose to donate rather than consume. They can also purchase food items and donate.
Sometimes, our local restaurants and grocery stores throw consumable food products away as there are no available resources to deliver these items to shelters or locations where they can be used. You can reach out to these venues and ask if you can regularly collect these food items for delivery to local shelters and food bank centers.
3) Volunteering your Time
Commit some time every week, every other week, or every month, to volunteer at local food banks, shelters, or areas in the community with people in need. Assemble food packages, deliver, and distribute food. One great initiative is a program called Hunger Van, a program which brings food and other essential items to the homeless on the streets. Food items are assembled by volunteers and delivered to those in need.
Having a rotating volunteer schedule can help implement a consistent system of collecting food from primary sources (grocery stores, school cafeterias, restaurants, mosques, etc.) and delivering them to locations where those in need are served.
We have beautiful examples of our Prophet (p) and Imams (pbut) spending their nights distributing food to the needy. Such was the compassion and empathy of our Ahl al-Bayt (pbut) that after their passing away, the needy would feel the loss more so than anyone else, because they were the ones who took care of them.
4) Using Social Media
Social Media is a great tool to use to promote your efforts and create further momentum and interest in feeding the hungry.
Have a dedicated volunteer take pictures and do regular blogs for either your mosque’s social media site or your own dedicated social media site. Post regular updates of your group’s meeting times, volunteer events, and programs.
There are so many things we can do to help alleviate hunger in our communities beyond simply opening our wallets. By taking initiative and creating a system of saving, donating, and sharing food, we are preventing food waste, creating empathy for others, fostering thankfulness, and making a difference in someone’s life. We have many opportunities for you to volunteer with us and also for My Orphans, a DBA of I.M.A.M.; just click here.