Community Resilience

How Food Banks Embrace the Spirit of Ramadan

For the last month, Muslims around the world celebrated Ramadan, a holy month of fasting from sunrise to sundown and a time of reflection, community, and generosity. During this time, food banks served as hubs for their communities, beacons for volunteering and donation, and advocates for reducing food waste.  

Many members of The Global FoodBanking Network in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia found different ways to support their fasting Muslim community members and reduce food waste during Ramadan. 

Tkiyet Um Ali (TUA), based in Amman, Jordan, has been hosting its flagship Ramadan program, Mawae’d Al-Rahman, since 2005.  

“Throughout the holy month of Ramadan, we serve iftar [fast breaking] meals at our headquarters in Amman, where fasting underprivileged men, women, and children can have a hot meal with dignity,” said Samer Balkar, director general of TUA.  

Hundreds of tables were lined up underneath sprawling white tents outside of the food bank’s office. As sundown approached, dozens of volunteers swiftly prepared plates of food, serving an average of 4,500 people every day of Ramadan.  

During their daily iftar meal, one person told Balkar that she lived alone and often struggled to afford a healthy diet. During Ramadan, she was relieved to know she could eat well every day at TUA.  

“The food is really good, and I love to eat here every day,” she said. “I like kofta meat and chicken. If I did not come to Tkiyet Um Ali, I would not be able to eat.”

This year in Medan, Indonesia, Aksata Pangan Food Bank expanded its Ramadan Sharing Fridge program in which it made community refrigerators available so those with leftover iftar food could share it with others into the Ramadan Sharing Food Program.  

“It provides an opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds to unite in a common cause,” said Karina Nursyafira Alihta, Aksata Pangan’s chief resources development officer. “By addressing issues such as food insecurity, poverty, and social isolation, these campaigns help to bridge the gap between privilege and the underprivileged, fostering a more equitable society.” 

Aksata Pangan enlisted dozens of volunteers to package and deliver traditional Indonesian iftar meals to 50 families facing food insecurity in Medan. The meal packs included Indonesian dishes like bubur, a chicken congee, and kolak, a coconut milk-based dessert, as well as dates and cake. From March 18 to March 31, they served 2,800 meals to families.  

Two of the people receiving daily meals told Aksata Pangan that receiving the meal packages was not just about food but also gave them a sense of relief. They were able to enjoy specially prepared meals as a family without worrying about the cost.

Another GFN partner, FoodCycle Indonesia, partnered with supermarket chain Hypermart to distribute meals from 100 store locations across the country.  

“Ramadan is about giving and compassion, and teaming up with Hypermart helps us reach more people,” said Herman Andryanto CEO of FoodCycle Indonesia. “With the support of local partners including six other local food banks, we can provide ketupat sayur, a traditional dish enjoyed during this celebration.” 

In Lagos, Nigeria, where an economic crisis has caused exorbitant inflation and exacerbated food insecurity, the Lagos Food Bank Initiative’s (LFBI) Ramadan Food Assistance Program was all the more important this year.  

“The Ramadan intervention will provide support during the fasting period enabling families to divert already limited funds for more important use,” said Michael Sunbola, executive director of LFBI. “We are motivated by compassion as we look past religion and reach out to our beneficiaries as they embark on this fasting journey.” 

LFBI delivered pre-prepared iftar meals as well as food staples to Muslim members of the community during their fast.  

“At the start of the fast, I had no food at home for [pre-fast meal] suhoor or iftar and only had water to drink,” said Mrs. Asesanya outside LFBI’s offices. “This fasting season has not been easy for my family and the food bank gave me food items that I can use as support, and I have not felt the effect of the high cost of food.” 

Late every night during Ramadan, staff and volunteers from Kechara Soup Kitchen hit the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to visit hotels that have excess food from that night’s iftar buffets. Since 2016, volunteers and staff have been collecting untouched, cooked food from buffet lines throughout the city. They started the program with less than a dozen hotels, but this year, they worked with 23. They took recovered food immediately to Kechara’s community partners who feed people facing hunger in orphanages and homeless shelters.  

“It’s crucial that this initiative not only prevents further food waste but also provides nutritious meals, while also supporting charity homes by stretching their budgets,” said Justin Cheah, Kechara Soup Kitchen’s marketing director. “Additionally, this initiative aims to raise awareness among the public about effective ways to prevent food waste.” 

During Ramadan, they recovered 2.2 tons of food from buffets, which benefitted 1,363 Malaysians at community organizations.  

As essential fixtures of their communities, food banks across the world adapt their programming to provide targeted support and care during special times of the year like Ramadan. 

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