Project Ramadan aims to feed 500 Ottawa families during holy month

An initiative called Project Ramadan is aiming to feed 500 Ottawa families — and it’s the first time the charitable organization has worked in the nation’s capital.

Run by the Toronto-based Muslim Welfare Centre, the initiative first began in 2009, assembling food baskets for needy families at the time of the year that coincides with the holy month of Ramadan.

At the Ottawa Food Bank on Sunday, teams of volunteers put together 500 sets of bags, two bags to each set.

Around 50 volunteers turned out to help. Muhammad Iqbal Ali, director of the Muslim Welfare Centre, said the group doesn’t usually have to look far to find them.

“We are so blessed to have so many young volunteers work with us,” he said. “Each and every time we need them, they come to us in hordes.”

Lina Bekhechi, 12, spent her day volunteering, loading food into the purple and yellow cloth bags.

“It’s a really good cause, to help people that are more vulnerable or less fortunate,” she said.

Fighting food insecurity

Since its inception, Project Ramadan has fed approximately 15,000 people, said Firaaz Azeez, special projects manager for the Muslim Welfare Centre.

“Food insecurity affects every community in our country,” he said, adding that the group partnered with the Ottawa Food Bank to mark its tenth year in operation.

Paul Brown, the food bank’s director of operations, said the timing was ideal since the summer is one of the slowest times for food donations.

“We’re actually heading into our down season right now, where the amount of product that we end up purchasing far outweighs the amount of donations that are coming in,” he said.

“It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Even though donations tend to decline in the summer, the need for food stays consistent.

The Ottawa Food Bank serves around 38,000 people each month, Brown said, a roughly five per cent increase over last year.

Project Ramadan will now be heading to Parliament Hill today to put together another 200 hampers with the help of MPs and lawmakers.

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