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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Local Food Program Helps Those in Need

By Starla Muhammad

According to the results of a recent survey conducted by Feeding America (formerly named America’s Second Harvest), the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, “Food banks across America are reporting a 30 percent increase in requests for emergency food assistance.” These tough economic times, culminated by a surge in unemployment and escalating food costs, have made a trip to the grocery store to purchase the bare necessities, a financial hardship for millions of U.S. citizens of varying socio-economic backgrounds. Feeding America also reported, “Many Americans are unable to provide adequate amounts of nutritious food to their families, due to the current economic crisis.”
For five years, Circle of Life Development Incorporated (COLDI), a 501-c3 non-profit organization has supplied the community’s south side residents with much needed food, donated by St. Mary’s Food bank during its weekly Saturday morning food program. However, over the past few weeks, the lines of hungry families in need that participate in the program have gotten steadily longer. Men, women and children for many of whom English is not their primary language, gather as early as 6am at Muhammad Mosque #32, the distribution point for the food program. Karen Rahman Muhammad, CEO of COLDI and one of the catalysts behind the implementation of the food program has marveled at the number of people that line up each week. “Every Saturday we are serving at least 300 people….this program is having a big impact…there are families that are in tears because they are so grateful,” shares Mrs. Rahman Muhammad.
The need and demand for food assistance is so great, that volunteers distributed 22,000 pounds of food in less than two hours during the program on December 13. To show appreciation and gratitude for the program, several of those receiving food have returned to help volunteer by passing out food and translating for Spanish speaking families. During the past five years of the program the diligence of volunteers like James Muhammad, Paula Muhammad many more have kept the program afloat as the critical need to provide food to the masses is becoming more evident. According to Mrs. Rahman Muhammad, “We have been doing this for five years and this is the first year that we get calls now during the week from people asking us for food.” Any leftover food from the program is then delivered to the elderly and sick throughout the community. The need for food and assistance during these times crosses racial, ethnic and economic lines and the COLDI food program serves a diverse range of people. Mrs. Rahman Muhammad explained, “We don’t ask questions of the people who come, we just feed those that are in need.”

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