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Muslim food bank appeals for donations to help families break Ramadan fast

Azim Dahya, volunteer CEO of the Muslim Food Bank Toronto, says the demand has increased due to inflation and an influx of refugees. (CBC - image credit)
Azim Dahya, volunteer CEO of the Muslim Food Bank Toronto, says the demand has increased due to inflation and an influx of refugees. (CBC - image credit)

A food bank that caters to Muslims in Toronto is appealing for more donations during the holy month of Ramadan.

Azim Dahya, volunteer CEO of the Muslim Food Bank Toronto, said on Saturday that the charitable organization is struggling to meet demand for its culturally appropriate food. He said demand has increased significantly this year compared to last year due to inflation, the high cost of food and an influx of newcomers.

While food banks across the Greater Toronto Area are also overwhelmed by need, he said the Muslim Food Bank faces a unique challenge because it is trying to help people during Ramadan when they break their fast.

Dahya said there is a shortage of halal food across Canada.

"The demand is huge," Dahya said.

"In the last few years, it has really doubled, tripled, due to high inflation and also refugees coming here from Palestine, Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, all over the world. We have refugees coming here and people don't realize that they come on a daily basis. Our role is to help them in the short term, to stabilize them with food, clothing and things like that."

Food bank helps up to 700 people a month

Last year, the food bank helped between 30 and 50 families a month, or roughly 200 to 300 people. This year, it is helping between 100 and 250 families, or roughly 500 to 700 people a month.

Muslim Food Bank Toronto
Muslim Food Bank Toronto

On Saturday, food bank volunteers prepared distribution packages at the food bank's North York location to hand out next week. The packages are filled with non-perishable food items for families in need and include enough to last a month. (CBC)

The Muslim Food Bank, with nine locations across Canada, is seeing the highest volume of people in Toronto.

During Ramadan, the food bank is helping to put food on the table for iftar, the evening meal that marks the breaking of the fast. Ramadan, which sees those observing abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset, marks a period of religious reflection, family gatherings and giving across the Muslim world.

Dahya said many families are fasting throughout the day during Ramadan, and with no food and water, it becomes taxing on them emotionally and physically not knowing where their next meal will be.

He said the food bank is helping as much as it can, cooking meals in house at the Islamic Centre it uses for its services. It offers halal and vegan options.

On Saturday, food bank volunteers prepared distribution packages at the food bank's North York location to hand out next week. The packages are filled with non-perishable food items for families in need and include enough to last a month.

Bibi Khan
Bibi Khan

Bibi Khan, a former food bank volunteer who now uses its services after suffering a stroke, the food bank is a lifeline. 'This organization helps me every month with food on the table,' she says. (CBC)

For Bibi Khan, a former food bank volunteer who now uses its services after suffering a stroke, the food bank is a lifeline. She has three adult children who are sick; one has cancer, one is blind and one has a hole in her heart.

"This organization helps me every month with food on the table," Khan said. "This food bank is very helpful to me."

Many people out there struggling, volunteer says

Fatima Tarbhai, a volunteer, said helping out at the food bank is a way to do service.

"It's literally what I feel is the least I can do in my life to sort of give back," Tarbhai said.

"I try to acknowledge the fact that God has blessed me with the minimum that I would need, for example, a roof over my head, a job. I have a lot to be thankful for. There are many people out there who struggle."

In November, a report by Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto found that one in 10 people in the city relied on food banks in 2023, a number that doubled from the previous year.