One week of Ramadan has gone by. Today, we will open our fast, and enjoy wonderful food prepared by our loved ones, food service workers, volunteers, or maybe even ourselves. The most fortunate among us will have multiple courses; soup, salad, samosas, perhaps pasta, or biryani. Despite this, many among us will not have enough to feel satiated, and yet more, across the world, will have almost nothing at all.
The World Food Programme considers the current climate to be a global food crisis, with an unprecedented level of hunger and food insecurity around the world. They claim that the food crisis level has increased substantially over the years, even since 2020. The biggest drivers behind increasing hunger and starvation are conflict, the climate crisis, and inflation, causing food to be unavailable or inaccessible for the people that need it most.
When we compare this current state of things to what we see at our own tables, at communal gatherings, or even our community and organizational iftars, we feel ashamed. Our tradition of excess is so far removed from the culture of moderation that Islam represents. There is no sin in enjoying good food and company, but after you are finished eating, how much food is left on your plate? How much food remains in the serving dishes, and where is all that leftover food going?
According to Earth.org, one-third of the food produced around the world goes to waste, worth about 1 trillion dollars. $408 billion of that is wasted here in the United States (Feeding America). If only a quarter of the wasted food was saved, it could feed a huge population of the hungry across the world. Although food waste is an ethical concern, it is also a driver of the climate crisis, as food production essentially wastes water when it is not used, and organic waste releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Hunger is not just a global issue. According to the USDA, more than 36 million people here in the United States suffer from food insecurity, including between 7 to 9 million children. Among those people may be your friends and neighbors. Our prophet has notably stated, ”One who spends the night with a full stomach while his neighbor is hungry, has not believed in me”. What better time to pay homage to this hadith than now in the month of Ramadan, when our good deeds are multiplied?
How can we ensure that we are not contributing to food waste, and at the same time, alleviating hunger? This may mean volunteering to cook for local homeless families, or even inviting those in need to partake in your dinner at home. It may mean that all leftover food from communal dinners is saved and redistributed to local families who may need it. Some of us may be able to donate money, a true privilege in an economic crisis such as this. Do not buy groceries you do not need, even if they are on sale. For all of us, the bare minimum should be to complete the meal on your plate, to only serve yourself as much as you can finish, and to reuse any leftovers so that you are not creating any additional waste.
Last week, we mentioned that our lens of analysis this Ramadan was about our own micro impact. This, we feel, is one of the smallest and most impactful ways to make a difference.
we hope to be mindful of this in this coming week of Ramadan, and hope you and your family members will hold each other accountable just as we are hoping to hold our loved ones accountable for the food waste we create this Ramadan.