When Food Banks Become a Means of Survival
Could you live on one bag of non-perishable food for 10 days?
We believe no one should. We believe that the right to food is the right to life. But there are hundreds of people across this great land rich with resources yet go hungry and at best have little food to carry on the day.
One should not be surprised that a very large number of Muslim families with children are coming to the Food Banks, mostly recent immigrants and refugees with no jobs or jobs with wages that barely supports them to have a shelter and other necessities for their loved ones. They are facing difficult circumstances. It is our moral obligation to help all those who are left behind in the race o life. Our faith calls for reaching out to those who are poor and hungry, as kindness begets kindness.
At Masjid Usman/Pickering Islamic Centre we collect non-perishable food and donate it to the local Food Bank, The Muslim Welfare Centre, a reputable, humanitarian organization in service for a number of years in the GTA.
A simple enquiry at any such centre that does this great humanitarian work would reveal how the Food banks usage is steadily increasing in Canada in the wake of the recent recession. A study released recently by the Food Banks Canada showing their usage across Canada has increased 9.2 per cent, or more than 73,000 people, from March 2011 to March this year.
While it’s wonderful that so many local people donate to food banks -and we at Masjid Usman / Pickering Islamic Centre encourage our congregation to continue to donate non-perishable items to feed families and others in need. Despite the regular donation of food from various sources, the need remains due to increase in reliance of a number of families on food banks to sustain life.
Canada once took care of the poor by providing sufficient income so they could live, until their situation improved and they were able to care for themselves. Now, that the welfare rates are so low that a single man, for example, receives only $572 a month to cover all of his food, shelter and clothing needs.
The solution is not local. Our federal and provincial governments must do more to improve the economy and reduce strain on the social safety net so those in need can truly be helped.
If you would like to join us in the fight to end hunger consider donating food by bringing in non-perishable food items and depositing in the big box we have placed in the Masjid. When you do your own grocery shopping pick up a non-perishable item or two and bring them to the Masjid, a great act of compassion for those who are counting on our support. The noble Prophet, may peace be upon him, ‘ a mercy unto mmankind’ was a model for us to follow. He preferred to feed the hungry even if he has to remain without food.
This act of charity is not just about the food — although that is very welcome — and it isn’t just about Muslims giving to Muslims, it is primarily about building relationships and subsequently empowering an entire community. It is an act where a deeply faithful and responsive community responding to the needs of a challenged community.
There is nothing more horrifying than the realization that as we live our happy lives here, millions of our fellow human beings live in hunger and face starvation. The majority of the world population today lives in poverty. It is clear that the world system that is in place is unjust and inhumane. Otherwise, how can we allow this situation to continue with less than 10% of the world population controlling over 90% of the wealth and resources of this planet.
We can start at home first by attending to the needs of the local people who draw our attention to their plight. Help we must.
Fasting during the month of Ramadan is a reminder to Muslims of their duties to Allah and their Islamic responsibilities towards less fortunate members of our society who need our help. There can never be a better time than the month of Ramadan to reach out to the needy in our society.
During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through restraint and good deeds. The month also serves as a reminder of the Muslim values of goodwill, brotherhood, compassion and care for the less fortunate.
Such charitable efforts speak to the social conscience of Islam, caring and showing generosity towards those in need.