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Islamic Center's Mobile Food Bank feeds thousands

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    The Islamic Food Bank of Toledo's latest initiative is a mobile unit that hands out meals monthly at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam and Helping Hands of St. Louis.

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    Bags of food collected during an Islamic Food Bank of Toledo's food drive.

    The Blade/Lori King
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CTY-islamic25p

Bags of food collected during an Islamic Food Bank of Toledo's food drive.

The Blade/Lori King
Enlarge | Buy This Image

He is not a true believer who eats his fill while his neighbor goes hungry.

So taught the prophet Mohammed, in a verse that volunteers might particularly keep in mind on the second Saturday of each month. That’s when they gather in the kitchen of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, preparing 150 hot meals to be driven to neighbors in need.

A mobile food bank is the latest initiative to come out of the Islamic Food Bank of Toledo, a nonprofit that operates under the Foundation of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. The well-stocked white van has been been making the monthly rounds since October, its team of volunteers making conversation and handing out meals at two locations: Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, 722 E. Bancroft St., at 1 p.m., and Helping Hands of St. Louis, 443 Sixth St., at 1:30 p.m.

Dr. M. Razi Rafeeq is the chairman of the Islamic Food Bank. He said that it’s important to recognize and combat the hunger that affects local communities.

“Our country is often regarded as the land of plenty, but hunger is still a big issue that affects millions,” he said, estimating that, in northwest Ohio, 18 percent of local residents experience hunger. “These are our neighbors.”

The Islamic Food Bank has been active in combating community hunger since 2008. Its scope has expanded significantly since its early days, when volunteers would arrange food donations in line with holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Eid al-Adha.

Dr. Rafeeq estimated that the Islamic Food Bank today distributes 3,000 hot meals each Ramadan and more than 1,000 pounds of meat on Eid al-Adha; Eid al-Adha is known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, and donations of meat are a typical way to celebrate.

The Islamic Food Bank also provides weekend bags for schoolchildren to take home on Fridays, a way to ensure that they and their families have access to nutritious meals outside of school hours, and supplies groceries to area families on an as-needed basis.

Through its various initiatives, the Islamic Food Bank is estimated to have fed more than 50,000 people in the community last year alone.

The mobile food bank comes as a complement to the pantries and kitchens that are already available in the targeted neighborhoods during the week, Dr. Rafeeq said. It aims to meet a need on weekends, in particular, when the chairman said these resources are less easily accessible.

Dr. Rafeeq and Mohamad Orra, who is treasurer of the Islamic Food Bank, said the response has been enthusiastic so far, with the van attracting crowds who make quick work of the 150 or so meals that volunteers prepare earlier in the day.

Most recently, that was chicken wraps, along with fruit, a bakery treat, and a drink.

Mr. Orra is a pretty regular volunteer with the mobile food bank. He said he especially likes being at the distribution point, where he finds the conversations particularly rewarding.

Dr. Rafeeq echoed the statement.

“Our religion teaches us to feed our neighbors,” he said. The mobile food bank, he added, “is a very small piece of a very complicated puzzle. We hope we are making a difference.”

Contact Nicki Gorny at ngorny@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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