BY PARADISE AFSHAR
Special to the Miami Herald
Making ends meet can be hard for a single mother.
But luckily for Yasmin Khan, a single mother of two, she has help.
For the past three years she has been getting a food basket every month from the South Florida chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America USA Relief’s hunger prevention program. She says the baskets of food — filled with rice, meats, cereal, cooking oils and other staples — give her peace of mind that her children will get a proper meal.
Abdur Rahman, event coordinator and fundraiser for Islamic Foundation of South Florida, sits inside the pantry where food is being collected for the needy of the Muslim community during Ramadan. CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
“I know I’ll have the basic items, I know my children won’t starve,” said Khan, of Miramar. “As a mom it’s about providing for your children.”
The South Florida chapter of the Islamic Circle is one of 18 branches nationally. It distributes food throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, as does the Islamic Foundation of South Florida. Both groups ramp up efforts during Ramadan, which begins at sunset Friday and involves fasting from sunrise to sunset.
Trinity Nevaeh, 1, eats a cookie given to her by members of Project Downtown in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, June 21, 2015. NATALIE FERTIG / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
A family who receives food from one of the two groups typically gets one box a month. However, during Ramadan the food banks will distribute three boxes: one box before the holy month begins, one in the middle of the month, and one at the end. The South Florida chapter of the Islamic Circle serves 200-plus families a month, while the Islamic Foundation serves about 100 families. Both groups will distribute food to dozens more during Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month-long period in which Muslims reconnect spiritually. In addition to fasting, they refrain from thinking negative thoughts, pray and focus on ways to do good. The food distributions buttress the faith’s emphasis on charitable giving, particularly during Ramadan.
Saleha Baig, food pantry founder, left, sits as Kauser Haroon, describes some of the items that are placed in the boxes for the donation. Eighteen food banks run by local Islamic centers to help those in need by giving them the proper food supplies to break the fast during the 30-night holiday period. The Islamic Foundation of South Florida is planning on giving away more than 300 boxes of food to families in need in South Florida for the month of Ramadan. CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
“It’s like a boot camp. It reinforces those things: the giving to charity, the fasting, the prayer,” said Abdur Rahman, events coordinator at the Islamic Foundation. “It’s getting your mental state in sync with your spirit. We have to set an example for all of humanity.”
Although Ramadan involves daily fasting, it also calls for a nightly breaking of the fast, when friends and family get together to pray and celebrate at a meal called iftar. As part of this, Muslims traditionally will eat dates and drink a sweet drink such as Rooh Afza, which consists of a concentrated syrup that is commonly mixed with milk. They also will eat fruit, drink tea and typically eat rice with meats or stews after they pray the sunset prayer, known as the Maghrib. Many of these items are included in the food baskets.
“You are providing someone with what they need when they are breaking a fast. It’s a gift from God to be that middle person,” said Abdurauf Khan, director of hunger prevention for ICNA Relief USA. “We do this every weekend, regardless of Ramadan.”
Can food items are stacked in the pantry. Eighteen food banks run by local Islamic centers to help those in need by giving them the proper food supplies to break the fast during the 30-night holiday period. The Islamic Foundation of South Florida is planning on giving away more than 300 boxes of food to families in need in South Florida for the month of Ramadan. CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
The group generally provides food baskets for 200-plus families a month, and serves meals to more than 200 people a week as part of their meal distribution program.
Typically, food baskets from both ICNA Relief USA and IFSF contain items such as rice, cooking oil, canned vegetables and halal meats, meaning the animals were slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law. During Ramadan the baskets also contain special foods.
“Ramadan boxes are special from what they do every month because you get one in the beginning, one in the middle and one in the end of the month,” Yasmin Khan said. “They have special things you would need to break a fast like dates, extra sweets and extra grocery items.”
Members of Project Downtown, a Muslim charity group, hand out pizza and snacks to homeless in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Saturday June 21. NATALIE FERTIG / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Yasmin Khan usually gives away the excess food she gets during Ramadan to those who might need it. “I not only receive but I share with my neighbors as well,” she said.
Packing up all the boxes can be quite complex. For the Islamic Foundation, it took 75 volunteers to complete their first batch of Ramadan food baskets, said Kauser Haroon, a volunteer who coordinates the packaging. The group packed 105 boxes, which were distributed on June 15. They plan to distribute about 340 boxes during Ramadan.
A group of Fort Lauderdale homeless accept pizza and soda from members of Project Downtown, a Muslim charity organization, on Saturday June 21. Project Downtown hands out food weekly in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and this month will also be handing out Ramandan packs in other locations around the city. June 21, 2014 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. NATALIE FERTIG / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Currently, two classrooms and an assembly room/cafeteria in the Salah Tawfik Elementary and Middle School hold the stored food. As of Wednesday, the organization was preparing to pack its second batch of boxes, which go out on July 6. Both groups work with local mosques, which help distribute the food.
Those who receive the boxes say they appreciate the efforts of the organizations and their volunteers.
BREAKING THE FAST: Hammad Sheikh, 19, right, of Miami, and Faizan Ahmed, 22 of Fort Lauderdale, center, hand out pizza to the homeless Saturday in Fort Lauderdale as part of Project Downtown, an Islamic charity group. NATALIE FERTIG / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
“I am divorced and I am a single mother, and it comes at a great help,” said Gina Suarez, 39, of Sunny Isles Beach, who receives boxes from ICNA Relief USA. “Food is a basic need, and when you have children even more.”
The boxes contain enough food to last from a few weeks to more than a month.
“It came at a time when I had no food. It contained rice, flour, oil, salt, cereal and everything and a package of meat along with that box,” said Asiya, 40, of Miami, who received a box from ICNA Relief USA. “That food lasted for three weeks. It helped me and my family from starving.”
Mohammed Irshad hands out pizza to homeless in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, June 21. Irshad has been involved with Project Downtown for 15 years, and his son joined him six years ago. “You have to give back to the community,” says Irshad, who also is on the Islamic School of Miami’s board of directors. June 21, 2014 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. NATALIE FERTIG / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Article Courtesy: Miami Herald