Have you seen him who belies the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter? He it is who drives away the orphan and does not urge giving away the food of the poor. (Quran, 107:1 - 3)
Feeding the hungry is an integral part of the Islamic faith. The Surah quoted above is recited by millions of Muslims around the world in prayer regularly, including those in America. But how many of us living here have paid attention to the hungry in the United States?
Yes, there are those who go hungry in the richest country in the world. According to the anti-hunger organization America?s Second Harvest, the country?s largest anti-hunger organization,
In 2002, over 13 million American children resided in food insecure households, meaning they were hungry or at risk of hunger, according to the US Department of Agriculture. These are the most vulnerable of our society. Don?t we have a responsibility towards them, at least, if not to their parents, who are struggling to put food on the table?
Muslims, individually and through their institutions, have a duty to fight hunger and poverty. One way to do this is by organizing a Masjid food drive. Below is a step-by-step explanation of how to organize one in your community.
1. Establish a Masjid Food Drive Task Force
This group of volunteers will organize, implement, and publicize the food drive in the Muslim community. Its members will make sure that a system is in place to inform participants of what type of food is needed, when the collection will take place, where to give donations, and how these will be sent to the food bank. The Masjid Food Drive Task Force will also recruit volunteers to arrange donations into food bags.
2. Contact local food banks
Choose a food bank where donations can be dropped off. You can search online or in the local phone directory. Once you?ve made your selection, find out what kind of food the food bank is looking for, how the food bags should be arranged, and if they can come to pick up the donations or you will need to drop them off. Set a date for drop off/pickup. Reconfirm this date a week before the food drive begins.
3. Develop two flyers
The first will be a general flyer announcing the Masjid Food Drive, the dates it will be held, and how it works (i.e. Masjid goers drop off their donations of nonperishable food on tables inside the lobby of the mosque. Volunteers will then assemble the food into bags to be sent to a local food bank).
The second will be entitled ?What Kind Of Food The Masjid Needs For the Food Drive?. This is a list of exactly the kinds of donations that are being sought (i.e. no junk food) based on the food bank?s requirements.
4. Solicit food donations from the community
This can be done on two levels.
One is to inform individual Muslims. Imams and food drive organizers can make announcements after Friday Khutbas (sermons) as well as during major events encouraging Muslims to drop off donations of nonperishable food at the spot designated by the Masjid Food Drive Task Force. The announcement can be preceded by a short speech about the importance of feeding the hungry in Islam, the spiritual rewards for doing so, and some statistics about hunger in America, with special emphasis on how it affects young children.
Another way of getting donations is by hanging up the general flyer announcing the food drive and the ?What Kind of Food The Masjid Needs For the Food Drive? flyer in the men and women?s sections of the Masjid.
Also, if your Masjid has a newsletter or newspaper, publish the flyers for the food drive in these publications.
In addition, post flyers about the food drive in local Muslim and non-Muslim businesses.
On the second level, the Masjid Food Drive Task Force members must contact local Muslim businesses, schools, and organizations to solicit their participation in this activity. This would mean not only publicizing the Food Drive via flyers, announcements, word of mouth, etc. among their employees, students, and/or members, but also encouraging them to participate in some aspect of the food drive?s implementation (i.e. dropping off the food collected to the food bank).
5. Solicit volunteers for food assembly
You will need ten to 20 volunteers, depending on the size of donations, to put together the food bags. A few days before the food drive ends, invite them to a short meeting to explain what time they need to come and how to arrange donations into food bags. It would be helpful if a handout can be given to them listing what a sample food bag should contain. Remember to thank them profusely for their help, and give them a short pep talk about the importance of responding to the needs of the hungry. Finally, don?t forget to collect their names, phone numbers, and email addresses on a sign-up sheet so that you can contact them the day before you will assemble the food bags.
6. Draft a short letter to be given to the food bank director
This letter, to be given when the donations are being picked up/dropped off, would detail how long the Masjid?s food drive was conducted, how much food was collected, and approximately how many Muslims participated. It should include one or two short verses of the Quran and a Hadith about the importance of feeding the hungry in Islam. It should also thank the food bank for accepting the Masjid?s donations and providing its members with an opportunity to give back to the community. Finally, it should be on official letterhead and signed by both the Masjid?s Imam and its Food Drive coordinator.
7. Drop off at the food bank
While pick up is the easiest option, from a Dawa perspective, it may actually be more beneficial if the Masjid food drive volunteers dropped off the food bags themselves. This would allow organizers and food bank administrators to meet and establish a rapport for further cooperation. It would also ensure that the letter in tip number six gets to the food bank director.
8. Hold a volunteer appreciation party
Don?t forget to thank all who helped organize this event. Hold a volunteer appreciation party for them at the Masjid and give them a small gift or at least a certificate and thank you card for their participation.
Photo Attribution: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Capital_Area_Food_Bank_-_Flickr_-_USDAgov.jpg