With Ramadan starting on April 2, Otterbein University's Center for Community Engagements (CCE) office is now partnering with the Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) with the goal of collecting non-perishable food items to provide to families in central Columbus.
Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims where they abstain from food, drink and other activities from sunrise to sundown. Across campus, boxes will be put at various locations throughout the month of April. Then, they will gather donations on the first Friday of each month to give back to the families served by CRIS.
Jeremy Hollon, a CRIS leader who is working in partnership with Otterbein, describes how a good and successful drive, would entail five or six families to donate weekly or approximately 25 families to donate once a month.
Hollon talks about how families in his community struggle with food insecurity and "the system that they get from the government is not enough." Further, "there are some families that don’t have status and aren’t eligible for a lot of services."
Yasmeen Khafagy, a cohort member for the CCE and is currently partnering with CRIS, said that the hope with this food drive is to remove a stressor from refugees. This will allow them to focus on the heavy barriers they have to adjust in their new life and allow them to focus their food insecurity issue. At the end of the day, what matters is that they families can enjoy a meal together to break their fast.
“This isn't a separate community from us. These people live in our neighborhoods. These people go to school with us,” said Khafagy. “So when we band together as a community, it just does all of us across the board a benefit.”
Items that are acceptable for the food drive Include: dates, pasta, flour, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, oatmeal, cereal, jam, crackers, biscuits, rice, nuts, canned fruits, dried apricots, dried figs, tea (Lipton), milk powder, instant coffee, mashed potato packs, peanut butter, grape leaves, olive oil and granola bars.
When searching for food to donate to a Ramadan drive, it's important to avoid products such as jello and pudding with gelatin in the ingredient list. It's also key to look for halal products with the "H" symbol on them and to also be cautious of products that do not contain pork.
“Growing up, especially because I am Muslim knowing that I was going to have a meal at home after such a long day of fasting and being so hungry, it meant a lot as a kid because my mom always reminded me that there are children that are less fortunate,” Khafagy said. “For me it's really important and it means a lot to me to be able to provide something back and to not just be able to do it by myself but to be able to do it with an entire community as well. I feel like that's the most fulfilling part.”
To donate to this food drive, look for the labeled boxes placed around campus at the Academic Affairs office, The Point and the Art & Communication Building.