Umbereen Rashid, a fifth-grader at Darul Arqam School, wiped melted chocolate off her wrist after she and 40 other students bagged 200 chocolate chip cookies for the Community Soup Kitchen, Morristown. The tasty task was part of Hunger Awareness Week, an educational campaign launched on Monday at the South River school by Bridgewater-based Muslims Against Hunger.
All of the South River Islamic school's 280 students in kindergarten through 12th grade participated in the program. They either donated winter clothes, packed plastic utensils or baked the cookies. All of the items will be delivered to the soup kitchen today by 14 students, mainly eighth-graders. The students also will serve lunch to 250 and then write an essay about their experience.
Before the program started, the school was shown a video about the soup kitchen, said Zamir Hassan, national coordinator of Muslims Against Hunger. Students were surprised to learn that 70 percent of clients are working poor who can't afford food, Hassan said.
"It's not fair," said Umbereen, 10, of Monroe. "We're lucky. We have all the food we want, but they need money for food, so they go to the shelter. They work hard all week and then can't afford to eat. I feel that we should help them."
"They must survive," added classmate Alaa Khalil, 10, of Clifton. "I think this is a great way to show that we are thankful. I'm thankful to my parents, my teachers and my God."
Muslims Against Hunger also will bring Hunger Awareness Week into Muslim schools in Piscataway in April and Teaneck in May.
Hassan, a computer consultant from Bedminster, founded the charity organization in 2002 after volunteering with his son Ali, now 17, at the Morristown soup kitchen. More than 500 members of Muslims Against Hunger take turns volunteering there, as well as in soup kitchens Hackensack and on Long Island.
"There are more hungry people than the soup kitchens are equipped to serve," Hassan said. "But we have more volunteers than opportunities to serve. That's a good problem to have."
When he approached Darul Arqam about launching Hunger Awareness Week, the school's administrator, Mareeya Agheem, created a lesson plan that the program will use in other schools, Hassan said.
Some of the students are also writing poetry about hunger and poverty issues, Agheem said.
"We hope that our children will be able to do something with their families and communities to help out," she said. "We're trying. Hopefully something will click."
Ismael Khalil, principal of Darul Arqam School, said he is confident Hunger Awareness Week will have an impact on the students and their community. (MORE)
For more information about Muslims Against Hunger, visit www.muslimsagainsthunger.com