The following is an excerpt from an article posted on The Washington Post in May 2019:
Volunteers pack up food for Islamic Relief USA. (ANDRES DELEON/Courtesy Islamic Relief USA)
Syed M. Hassan is the public affairs specialist at Islamic Relief USA, an Alexandria-based nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization that works to alleviate poverty and hunger in more than 40 countries
We’ve all felt those moments of unease, lightheadedness and stomach growling when we go for an extended period without eating.
Now, envision this being a regular occurrence. Then, include the other challenges that fester over a longer period, such as paying the monthly utility bills, child-care fees, an unforeseen auto repair and a hike in the rent that surpasses the inflation rate.
Understandably, it might be difficult to picture these things in much of Northern Virginia, long considered a prosperous region. Just check the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which lists counties and cities that have the highest median incomes in the country. Of the top 10, four are in “NoVa,” as locals refer to it: Loudoun County (1), Falls Church City (2), Fairfax County (3) and Arlington County (8).
But the lush landscapes, pricey apartment towers and paver-laden sidewalks don’t tell the whole story. As Steven Woolf, director emeritus of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, recently said, one need only look a bit closer within these communities to find “pockets of extreme disadvantage.” His school recently released a report, “Getting Ahead: The Uneven Opportunity Landscape in Northern Virginia,” detailing some of the areas suffering from inequities.
Overall, almost 140,000 people in Northern Virginia are living in poverty.
Poverty has many elements, but access to food is one that needs to be addressed pretty quickly because it doesn’t take long for deleterious effects to show.
With Lent and Passover having recently concluded and the Islamic holy month of Ramadan coming to an end, we are reminded of how pervasive the problem of hunger is. While Ramadan predominantly involves fasting daily from sunrise to sunset, that is actually just one aspect of the month.
Another big component of Ramadan is serving, especially people in need.
Islamic Relief USA, a nonprofit humanitarian and advocacy organization based in Northern Virginia, recently held one of its food-box-packing events in Springfield. Volunteers packed rectangular cardboard boxes with various nonperishable foods. These boxes will go to area residents who are food insecure, regardless of their race, religion or gender.
The goal behind the event (among other ones the organization holds throughout the year) is not only to help reduce the hunger rate. As of 2017, the last full year for which statistics are available, 11.8 percent of all households nationwide were food-insecure. These events remind us how much we have — and that it is our duty to give back.
Some municipalities have tried addressing the problem over the years. In 2014, for example, elected officials in Alexandria acknowledged the growing problem of child hunger in suburban areas. Alexandria’s mayor at the time, William Euille (D), said, “We all can do our part by donating to the various food banks, making certain that ‘no one is left behind.’ ”
Addressing hunger normally shouldn’t take any reminders. But with so many reminders around this region of great success, it’s easy to lose sight.
As Woolf said, we need to zoom in closer. Poverty and hunger do indeed exist.
Let’s do something about it. “
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