The favourite month for the Muslims is back! Welcome back, Ramadhan - you were missed dearly. Ramadhan is known as the holy month of blessings. As believed by Muslims, the month of Ramadhan is significant as it is the month the Quran was descended upon and revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. It is a month that is dearly loved and enjoyed by all - especially by Malaysians. During this beautiful month, people of different cultures, races and religions are brought together and united. The joy of breaking fast together, going to the food bazaar - everything is beautiful when people are brought together as one!
However, it is often forgotten that Ramadhan is also a month of performing good deeds and having patience. Because Ramadhan only happens once a year, the long wait for such goodness that they can get in only this month makes people specifically focused on food bazaars - and there are tons of food bazaars happening in every part of the town. Filled up with people of different races and religions, food bazaars bring everyone together to indulge in food that they can often can sample during this time of the year. Looking at it, food bazaars are one of the main reasons that leads to wastage. Food wastage applies both to sellers and customers - whereby when food is not finished it is directly sent to the trash can. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is not what we want not only during Ramadhan but every other month.
Soup Kitchens During Ramadhan
A soup kitchen (also called a food kitchen) is a place where food is offered to those people in need of it for free or below the usual market price. This is considered as work which caters to mostly homeless people or those of a lower income community. In the holy month of Ramadhan, food is provided to the unfortunates as usual. However, due to countless donations from individuals and organizations, food wastage tends to accumulate as the amount of food provided is in oversupply compared to the number of those who need it. One of the reasons for food are wastage is that the maximum number of packs the beneficiary can eat is only about three to four, but what about the rest? As much as they do not want that food to go to waste, they can not help but refuse the extra food offered due to their own limitations.
Islam stresses about how food is to be consumed moderately so excessive food waste can be avoided. According to statistics from the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM)’s Center for Science and Environment Studies’ Fellow Azrina Sobian, the largest contributor of food waste at overall 16,650 tonnes daily are from households.
Sadly, this is the month where everyone wants to increase their good deeds such as donating and providing food to unfortunate people - leading to excessive food wastage. Instead of wanting to be rewarded for donations, people should care more about how wastage causes environmental problems when disposed food in a landfill rots and became a significant source of methane - a greenhouse gas with multiple times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
How do we Prevent Food Wastage?
We can reduce food wastage individually. Buy only what you NEED, specially during Ramadhan. It is understandable that most people are flooded with the desire to eat varieties of food but bear this in mind, this holy month is supposed to make you understand food scarcity of the underprivileged. Buying less will make you understand the insecurity of not having enough food to eat and to drink and this will evoke a sense of social consciousness. A lot of people are still struggling to make end meets and the fortunate should not take their blessing ungratefully.
During one of our volunteering sessions with Datuk Munirah Hamid (founder of Pertiwi Soup Kitchen), she said that since a lot of individuals and organizations came out to donate during Ramadhan, the food is always at oversupply and it leads to food being thrown away. Logically thinking, a person can only eat up to two packed dinners at most and the number of homeless and unfortunate people that line up for the food are at the same number every day. So, to bring innumerable amount of food all at the same time is outrageous. This begs the question..
What Should Donors Do?
First, those who want to donate should know their geography and the existing NGOs who work around the area. Collaborate with them so that the number of food that you want to donate will be aligned with the number of receivers. On regular nights, even the soup kitchen NGOs work together among themselves and divide the distribution of food according to location and time.
Secondly, restaurants and hotels should work with NGOs like Food Aid Foundation which works as a food bank in rescuing the food surplus so that it can benefit those in need. How does this work? Restaurant owners can donate their food that is kept frozen in the back and the Food Aid Foundation teams will come and collect the food. The food is then modified into a different menu.
What Can be Donated Instead of Food?
In Malaysia when it comes to this holy month, people tend to look at the fact that whatever you donate, if it’s previously owned, unexpired and socially acceptable to give is presumably benefiting a few. But we always need to look and evaluate one’s donation and really see whether there’s a neglected, unfilled need with regards to what isn’t being given. When it comes to donations during Ramadhan, people always donate food to the ones in need, but we tend to overlook the fact that there are items we use on a daily basis that we could donate. A lot of CSR projects focus on making sure that the homeless don’t starve, but we cannot forget to give them basic items such as:
i) Bath and Dental Essentials
Donating small bottles of hygienic products such as shower gel, shampoo, and deodorant. These are the basic needs of toiletries that many of us underestimate. Little bottles of these essentials that save space and are easy to carry around is helpful for those without shelter to stay clean while depending on public restrooms. NGOs can consider donating these if the items are allergy-friendly and safe to use.
ii) Sanitary Pads and Diapers
These two essential items are very costly and cannot be prevented monthly for women, hence when these two items are on sale, you should consider buying extra boxes of them to donate. Many are generous when it comes to giving babies pre-loved clothing, but not diapers. Sanitary pads and diapers should be for all body types and for all ages - especially diapers for older children.
iii) Undergarments and Socks
Donating huge packs of new undergarments and socks saves cost as it is reusable and easy to wash especially to those who can’t afford them.
iv) Blankets or Sleeping Bags
Being on the streets unsheltered under cold weather at night is really hard. You can consider donating a blanket or sleeping bags to keep unfortunate families and individuals sleeping on the streets warm and comfortable enough to sleep and rest.
While donating valuable essential items can benefit and help those in need, there’s nothing like donating your time and effort.
All in all, the beauty of Ramadhan should never be forgotten as it is more than just doing good deeds and enjoying the food bazaars. No matter what month it is, good deeds can be done in every other month too. Worry not peeps, blessings come every single day. Butn Ramadhan, it gets better for everyone and not just for the Muslims. However, we should not forget how we Malaysians are blessed with so much food that can lead to wastage, but there are people from other parts of the world who break fast with only water and no food supply.
Together, food wastage can be avoided with the intention to eat to break fast and not because of the hungry appetite we acquire while fasting throughout the day. With the right intention and knowledge of Ramadhan, there would be no increasing numbers of food wastage and an overflow of donations to the poor and lesser fortunate. Not to be forgotten, instead of focusing of making good deeds and enjoying food bazaars, Ramadhan is the perfect month to fix and toughen up your mindfulness as self-realization and self-reflection must also be focused on in this holy month to make you a better person in life.
* This blog post was written by Public Relations students from the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, UiTM Shah Alam, as part of their client servicing project with SOLS 24/7.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of SOLS 24/7 or its members.