The United States Congress recently designated June 10 as National Hunger Awareness Day. While hunger and poverty are ongoing problems in all of America, and even more so, the rest of the world, we can use this time to work more proactively on the issue. Here are five simple things you can do:
1. Use your contacts
If, like a number of Muslims after 9/11, you've been building bridges of understanding with non-Muslims of different backgrounds, then Hunger Day is a great way to join hands as a community to do good.
Get together with the people you've befriended for this good cause. Hold a meeting and plan something for Hunger Day in your community. It could be a visit to a soup kitchen, an interfaith food drive held in your respective mosques, churches and places of worship, fasting together and then giving the money for the three meals you didn't eat to a local charity, or any other creative idea.
If nothing spectacular develops, you've at least developed and maintained important contacts that can further serve the cause of bridgebuilding.
2. Hold an open discussion in your Masjid about it
This does not involve long speeches about how Islam alleviated poverty throughout the centuries. Rather, it will be an open mike discussion with community members, men and women, to think and plan out a strategy for Muslim participation in Hunger Day. Start off the discussion by silently handing out a list of Quranic verses and Ahadith about how feeding the hungry is part of our faith. You can also provide handouts or publish in your community newsletter the articles Muslim Misperceptions about Social Services and 8 Things Masjids Can Do to Help Boost Social Services.
3. Visit a soup kitchen
If the above suggestions are not feasible, then at least on Hunger Day visit a city facility which has worked to feed the hungry in the past or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Better yet, get your family involved, especially your kids. They'll learn not only about hunger, but also about the value of volunteering.
4. Get the schools involved
Although June is hardly the time most students think about getting more involved in school, squeeze out the last bit of enthusiasm from your kids and their classmates before the summer break by having them at least post a banner about Hunger Day or setting up a table at their school about it. Let them provide factsheets to fellow students about hunger or put up a small display about hunger in America and how it affects children in particular.
5. Write about it in your local newspaper
Letters to the editor and op-ed articles are always welcome at newspapers. You don't need to be a writer to be published on these pages open to the public. Use this opportunity to spread the word about Hunger Day and to raise awereness about the problem of hunger in America, especially as it affects 9 million children.
"Ollas comunes en 1932" by Unknown author. Published by Zig-Zag editorial, Santiago - Memoria Chilena. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ollas_comunes_en_1932.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ollas_comunes_en_1932.jpg