LONDON: Muslim communities across the UK are stepping up to meet a surge in reliance on food banks from the country’s poor and vulnerable.
As children are forced to stay home from school and millions of workers face reduced hours, pay cuts or redundancies, the coronavirus pandemic has meant an unparalleled increase in demand for food banks in the UK. Muslim communities nationwide have moved to the forefront in confronting this crisis.
Bearded Broz, an emergency food bank based in the city of Birmingham, delivers food directly to people facing acute shortages.
Its founder Imran Hameed told Arab News that it has seen a 50 percent increase in demand compared to this time last year.
Bearded Broz has been working in the Midlands and London for five years, but since the coronavirus outbreak it has been “inundated” with phone calls, Hameed said.
“As a Muslim, it’s not allowed for me to let my neighbor go without food,” he added. “It has been amazing how the community has pulled together to support each other in this time.”
Bearded Broz has been particularly active over Ramadan. It is running a project where people can donate whole goats directly through a meat supplier, and Bearded Broz will provide the rest of the food needed for a full meal — a “Ramadan pack,” as Hameed calls it.
Much like Bearded Broz, the Green Lane Masjid in Birmingham has seen the number of people needing food assistance swell.
Its CEO Kamran Hussain told Arab News that he has seen the number of people visiting the food bank quadruple.
Green Lane Masjid has had to massively increase the scope of its humanitarian services. It used to operate just a few days a week, but it is now open daily and demand “has gone through the roof — it’s busy every day,” Hussain said.
“The community has really come together — we’ve recruited hundreds of new volunteers. People have been donating their time and their money. These times allow the generous, philanthropic side of us to come through. As a faith organization, this is what we do.”
One upside, Hussain said, is that “the role that faith and community organizations fulfil, — how they form the fabric of our society and the immeasurable value they offer — is truly being realized.”
Larger organizations such as Islamic Relief UK have also been heavily involved in fighting food insecurity caused by the pandemic.
In a statement issued to Arab News, it said it has made £500,000 ($617,352.50) available to community-based organizations across the UK.
That money is being used to provide for the most vulnerable — single parents, asylum seekers and whole impoverished communities are being fed by Islamic Relief UK’s coronavirus appeal.
The UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, said it provided almost double its usual volume of food parcels in the first weeks of the UK lockdown.