Our FeedPhilly volunteers from the Logan Park Group
As we strive to make stronger communities, one of the challenges is finding effective ways to help those who are facing hardships. One organization that is working towards a solution is FeedPhilly, a social humanitarian project of American Muslims for Hunger Relief (AMFHR). Unlike many organizations, FeedPhilly has a single focus—to uplift the lives of the Greater Philadelphia and Camden Community through providing free food to those in need.
Ghani Khan, chair of AMFHR, along with Hamza Shaikh, senior coordinator at FeedPhilly, organize a team of volunteers the third Saturday of each month. The first team arrives at a commercial kitchen at 6:00AM to begin the preparations of the halal food, and at 10:00AM the next group of volunteers arrives to package the food to be distributed to several sites throughout the area. Collectively, in a span of a few hours, 1000 meals are distributed to meet AMFHR’s mission to ”serve the hungry and homeless with compassion, dignity, and respect without any discrimination of color, race, gender or religion.”
In addition to the once a month feeding in the Philadelphia area, Khan’s team provides a total of 7000 meals to the hungry throughout each month. Previously, before its closure, they were also providing three daily meals to residents of a tent city in New Jersey. Khan pointed out that many people incorrectly make the assumption that those living in a tent city are uneducated, drug addicts, and/or lazy. This is simply not the case and that became obvious to Khan, “There were people living in the tent city who previously had jobs that paid six figures. When the economy went bad many lost their jobs and investments, and thus eventually were left without their homes and assets.”
Those who oppose public feeding of the homeless and hungry, often will cite their objection as based on the belief that it creates an environment that contributes to dependency. However, Khan argues that this is simply not the case. He has witnessed first hand, those who had previously received meals, later return to assist in serving others. During his conversations with individuals who transitioned out of homelessness and later became volunteers with AMFHR, he learned that for them the meals did more than just nourish the physical body. The confidence in knowing that three meals a day would be available allowed their minds to be free to think beyond their basic need to scurry for food. When you know you will receive three meals a day, your mind can go beyond mere survival mode and begin to set goals and put plans in motion that will eventually lead toward a path to a better future.
As far as the vitality of FeedPhilly, Khan said that unlike other areas of the country, there are not any bills being pushed to ban feeding in the areas where they are operating. The only obstacles he contends with are the obvious ones that are common for volunteer and donor based nonprofits—helping hands and funding. However, as of late, the number of volunteers at FeedPhilly have been growing and have exceeded any expectation and he hopes to start another program in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the near future. As far as funding, he and the other volunteers are always seeking additional donors, organizing fundraisers, and are strong in faith that they will always have what is necessary to impact the community.
When asked about where he came up with the idea for the feeding program, Ghani said that he was inspired by work he has previously done with interfaith programs. He also stressed that it is the duty of Muslims to care for their neighbors, as expressed in a well-known hadith.
“I heard the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘A man is not a believer who fills his stomach while his neighbour is hungry.'” (Ibn ‘Abbas told Ibn az-Zubayr)
We must all continue to do our part in extending a hand to those in need. We are all connected—and as we lift up individuals—we also lift up our entire community.