By Maham Haq
When deli meat was left over from the Muslim Community Picnic and Field Trip to Red Rock State Park in Sedona, an event sponsored by the Islamic Community Center of Tempe and MAS (Muslim American Society) Arizona, the organizers decided to avoid waste and do good at the same time, by making sandwiches and feeding homeless people. On Wednesday, June 17, approximately 15 volunteers helped make sandwiches at the center in Tempe for distribution to homeless people in the area.
Arizona’s high temperatures, reaching the 110s lately, and limited shade make summer a particularly brutal time for those without homes. More than 20,000 adults and children in Phoenix are homeless according to annually reported information from Continua of Care. According to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, more than 100 people each year suffer from heat-associated deaths, 38% of which occur among those who are homeless.
“This is the perfect way to start the month of Ramadan. As Muslims, we have a responsibility to care about everyone including non-Muslims, especially in our community. Doing something beneficial like this really brings the community together and gets the youth involved in community efforts,” said Samer Naseredden of Tempe, who helped lead this effort.
The Islamic Community Center of Tempe has organized similar events in the past. One event resulted in the assembling and distributing of more than 1,000 sandwiches within the homeless community of Phoenix. This is the first time, however, where leftover food has been used to feed the homeless as an effort to not let food go to waste.
According to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 133 billion pounds of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer level went to waste in 2014. This accounts for an estimated value of $161.1 billion in retail prices.
“I learned about this opportunity through email and decided it would be a great way to get my kids involved. I want them to realize the importance of helping out in the community. I want them to see the homeless we are going to feed so they realize how unfortunate some people are and how they need to be thankful for everything that they have been given by Allah,” said Naima Ramadan, a volunteer from Tempe.
The sandwich-making process was like a well-oiled machine. First, some volunteers prepared the bread with either mustard or mayonnaise and then passed the slices along to other volunteers who placed sliced tomatoes and lettuce on the prepared breads. Lastly, either chicken or meat was added to the sandwiches which were then tucked into plastic bags. Once all the sandwiches had been assembled, the volunteers cleaned the room and the majority of the volunteers set out to distribute the food in Tempe.
There was no set place for distribution. The volunteers sought out homeless people to distribute the food to them individually. The group initially stopped by a Salvation Army but was directed to a nearby church where individuals in need were gathered. Volunteers distributed the sandwiches and ice-cold water. The volunteers then visited Tempe Beach Park where the remaining water and sandwiches were distributed. The volunteers spent around 45 minutes seeking out every homeless individual in the park to provide food and water.
“Events like this are so important. They really open your eyes to the situations people are facing. It makes us remember to be thankful for what we have and to help those we can in any way possible,” said Ramadan.