This Ramadan, I Saw Gross Amounts of Wasted Food & Water at Community Iftars

According to the United Nations, 795 million people, or 1 in 9 persons, in the world do not have enough food.  One in six people face hunger in America.  Sixty six million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world.  One in nine people worldwide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water.
These statistics are shocking.
Given this devastating reality, imagine my disappointment and frustration after observing a number of Muslim attendees at some mosques in the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) areas leaving behind copious amounts of their food and drinks–i.e., bottled water–to be thrown in the trash after iftar.

Imagine my disappointment and frustration after observing a number of Muslim attendees at some mosques leaving behind copious amounts of their food and drinks – i.e., bottled water – to be thrown in the trash after iftar

Ironically, this troubling behavior is occurring in a month where Muslims are striving to be more conscientious & empathetic of those who have nothing to eat or drink.
My conscience won’t allow me to rest without taking proactive steps to work towards ending this serious problem.
Moving beyond what I’ve done thus far at mosques to avoid the throwing away of unfinished drinking water, here are some suggestions for remedying the wasted food and drinks during future Ramadans.

  • Not taking or putting more on one’s plate than is absolutely needed.
  • Portion control by those manning serving tables; only serving so much on one plate, including on children’s plates, and advising people that if they would like more to eat, please come back for seconds.
  • Water bottles should be distributed by workers and volunteers, instead of being left out for people to take more than they really need.
  • Bottles of unfinished water can be collected and used to water the grass and shrubbery of the mosque or center grounds.
  • Offer brief training sessions to workers/employees and volunteer servers to best prepare them in their role in curbing the problem.
  • Recruit more volunteers by making it known that each person volunteering will only need to commit to a small number of nights, or only 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time per night, instead of having to commit to the entire month or more than 1 hour a night.  This way you can ensure you’ll have someone to man the serving tables.
  • Religious leaders or Imams should invest time in talking about the issue during sermons at their respective mosques/Islamic centers.
  • Community members should, in a respectful way, remind each other not to waste when they see each other wasting food and drinks.
  • Partner with area homeless shelters, rescue missions, and other human need organizations where leftover food can be donated and picked up for free.
  • Offer presentations about this topic/issue at local and national Islamic conferences, and other venues where Muslims attend, to increase awareness of the nature and scope of the problem, in hopes for tangible changes to take place. Because of the importance of this long-standing issue, and our passion about it, my friend Naila and I have decided we would like to present this topic at Islamic or Muslim conferences.

Sadly, some Muslims don’t consider why they are fasting beyond abstaining from food, water, & sex during the day; they simply observe a physical fast. Conversely, if Muslims move from tradition into the true spiritual observance of Ramadan, then Muslims would be more mindful, and be inclined to implement strategies to stop food and water waste during Ramadan.

Submitted by Najwa Kareem