Orange County Food Pantry Adapts to Coronavirus Pandemic During Ramadan

Ahmed Almukhtar, Uplift Charity’s director of operations, and volunteers help put boxes of food into the trunk of cars at a food pantry.

No big group Iftaar dinners with loved ones, no Taraweeh nightly prayers and no gatherings at the mosques means Ramadan, the holiest month for people who believe in the religion of Islam, is very different this year but Muslims are still finding a way to help feed the hungry.

Ramadan is a time where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset without food and water for 30 days. The month is also an opportunity to be charitable and feed the hungry one of the many parts of Ramadan that Muslims can still do during the stay at home order.

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, a network of food pantries across the county have converted to drive through service and others have popped up on a mission to feed Orange County as people find themselves without an income due to business closures.

That’s exactly what Uplift Charity did.

Uplift Charity is a muslim based non-profit that works to help those in need become self sufficient. The organization will be holding a food pantry today between 10 to 12 p.m. at the Al Ansar mosque in Anaheim. 

“We will follow the guidelines and the orders of the (Center for Disease Control). Our volunteers will be wearing face masks and gloves and actually the beneficiaries of the food pantry will be just opening their trunk and we will serve them,” said Ahmed Almukhtar, Uplift Charity’s director of operations.

Though the pantry is done through registration, Almukhtar said they never turn anyone away and will be able to help get food to any person who comes to today’s pantry.

Almukhtar said the charity started the food pantry serving 80 families and now after three years the pantry feeds hundreds of families. The charity will also hold another food pantry on May 16 in the Garden Grove area. 

Usually during Ramadan, Uplift Charity will hold one pantry for the month and serve 3,000 families but because of the wide spreading effects of the pandemic the Ramadan pantries will serve about 300 families as vendors can not provide enough items to fill 3000 boxes at this time. 

They also do food deliveries but have to do it at a smaller scale because of the pandemic.

Volunteers like Zain Sattar and his mother Entesir Haveez from Anaheim will help distribute the food and place the boxes in the trunks of the cars that stop by. 

Sattar said feeding the hungry during the month of Ramadan is important because it brings Muslims closer to God and that the month is a blessing.

“We fast. We can feel how poor people feel that don’t have anything to eat,” he said. “It’s the best month of the year.”

Sattar said he usually spends the days of Ramadan at the Mosque but that is not an option for him this year.

The Taraweeh prayers, an optional prayer during Ramadan, usually takes place in the mosque where Muslims will gather to pray after the daily nightly prayer. For many these prayers are big part of what makes Ramadan, Ramadan and a reminder of the homeland for those who immigrated from muslim dominated countries to the U.S.

Another big part of the month is eating together and inviting friends and families over for Iftaar, the meal with which Muslims break their fast. The pandemic has also stopped Muslims from having people over for these meals.

Almukhtar said  the usual celebrations are still in place either virtually or practiced at home but this year the month is very unusual because Muslims cannot gather at the mosque to pray, break fast together and be in community.

“Usually during Ramadan we go every night to pray Taraweeh, We go pray fajr and a good number of us would meet at the masjid. A majority of mosques would have iftaar. We do what we usually do but from home and all the activities are virtual. Every day we listen to the hadith and to the speech of imams or scholars,” Almukhtar said.

“It’s very, very, very abnormal.”

For those who wish to donate to the charity visit upliftcharity.org. If you are in need of food there are pantries across the county handing it out for free.

These include:

Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County 

Every Saturday from 9 a.m to 12 p.m. at the Honda Center

2695 E Katella Ave, Anaheim, CA 92806

The Power of One Foundation

Saturday from 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. at the MainPlace mall

2800 North Main Street Santa Ana, CA 92705

The Vineyard Anaheim Church

Every Wednesday and Thursday from 9-11 a.m. at the church. 

5340 E La Palma Ave, Anaheim, CA 92807

Laguna Food Pantry

Monday-Friday 8:00 am-10:30 am

20652 Laguna Canyon Road Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Yorba Linda Community Center

Every Thursday 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.

4501 Casa Loma Avenue Yorba Linda, CA 92886

The Salvation Army Southern California

Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

1515 West North Street Anaheim, CA 92801

Or

Tuesday-Thursday 1-4 p.m.

10200 Pioneer Road Tustin, CA 92782

For more food assistance options visit 211 OC.

If you operate a drive through food pantry in Orange County and would like our newsroom to be aware of your efforts, reach out to Hosam Elattar at [email protected] or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.