Only seven years ago, 4,000 people visited the Howard County Food Banks. Today, the number of visitors has increased to 22,000 per year in the affluent county.
September was Hunger Action Month in Howard County, so the Howard County Muslim Council (HCMC) teamed up with Halal Yeah Youth Center to hold a food drive and picnic, gathering about 5,000 pounds of food for Howard County Food Banks.
A September 15, 2013 food drive event at a Howard County park brought out hundreds of ordinary citizens and political figures alike, both impressed at the amounts of food collected for the Howard County Food Bank.
“[This event] is important for the actual food, [and knowing] that there are families who are in need and this is going to serve families in need,” said County Executive Ken Ulman. “But the other bigger reason why it’s important is that it sends a message to the broader community that we do have families in need.”
In the past five years, the number of people using the Howard County Food Bank has tripled. More children have been signed up for free or reduced meals at schools in Howard County. 16.02% of students in Howard County are enrolled in free or reduced lunches. Between the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, 827 more students in Howard County signed up for free or reduced meals, resulting in an 11.22% change.
“People think we live in an affluent community,” Said Janet Siddiqui, Board of Education. “But right next door, there are people that are in need and we need to reach out to those people.”
HCMC and Halal Yeah Youth Center (a project of the Islamic Leadership Institute of America) worked together to unite the community, bringing people of all ethnicities and religions together in this community gathering. Teams from youth centers, schools, churches, synagogues, mosques and more worked to collect food for the less fortunate of Howard County.
“You are the future. Young people are the future to this county and this world. If you understand that there is a need today, for people less fortunate, then you’ll carry that with you as you grow older,” said Senator James Robey, who was very pleased with the youth involvement in the food drive.
“This is a huge success. Number one, we are helping a cause. Number two, we’re also trying to become a part of the whole larger community,” said Rizwan Siddiqui, President of HCMC. The food drive helped others in the community see the true nature of the Muslim community, that they are just ordinary people, reaching out to their communities. Volunteers from all over the county collected and packed food into a Howard County Food Banks truck, off to help people in their ongoing struggle against hunger.