For the past four years Shakhlo Sharipova has been running a drive to help feed families in need during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, prayer, family, and community.
The first distribution was during the pandemic, Sharipova recalled.
“We were delivering 200 to 300 meals per week,” she said. “So during one month, we delivered more than 1,000 meals to those people.”
The first year was so successful that she was constantly receiving calls and messages about getting food to families in need that were missed the previous year.
This year Muslims everywhere are taking part in the holiest month of the Islamic calendar from March 22 to April 20.
“I’m doing fundraising right now,” Sharipova said a few days before Ramadan. “I opened registration a few weeks ago and we have almost 40 families signed up, and we’re expecting more,” she said.
She’s expecting to total about 150 meals.
“We don’t have funding for this project. So I do fundraising just hoping people will donate,” she said.
Her group of volunteers are asked to deliver those meals.
Sharipova, recent winner of East York’s Agnes Macphail award, is very involved in the community in other ways.
Although Sharipova has strong roots in the Muslim community, she said she found it quite difficult to reach out and get funding for this project. She pointed out her food distribution project is a little different from the others.
“This is the one which is bigger and can do that work,” she said. “So they don’t see us, you know, those small initiatives like grassroots initiatives. It’s very difficult for grassroots initiatives to get funding.”
Funding is the most important part of the project. All the money that’s made goes directly into buying supplies to prepare the meals.
“The most I’ve raised is $500, but I would say we need $1,000 per like per week.” She said
The meals usually include a dinner meal, salad box naan bread, and something sweet like dates or a snack bar to add something sweet. Fifteeen to 20 volunteers help package and deliver these meals twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays.
According to the Statistics Canada 2021 Census, nearly 10,000 Muslims are living in East York.
“It’s a big community, so meals are in high demand, although we have lots of mosques around and usually people go because they provide food for free during Ramadan,” she said.