This week, USDA was honored to join forces with USAID and Islamic Relief USA to host the department’s 4th annual Iftar celebration. The event welcomed over 170 guests, including representatives from humanitarian organizations, faith-based groups and federal employees. This year’s Iftar called attention to the importance of reducing food insecurity abroad with the theme “Feed the Future: Together We Can.” Iftar is an evening gathering held each year during Ramadan. A time of spiritual cleansing in the Islamic faith, Ramadan is when Muslims fast, abstaining from food and water from sunrise until sunset. Iftar is the meal at which Muslims break their fast each night. For many Muslims, fasting is an act of empathy towards those around the world who go hungry not by choice, but instead by circumstance.
Darci Vetter, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, kicked off the event and discussed ways in which USDA and USAID programs are working build food security internationally. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID, emphasized the tremendous support of President Obama in moving forward the Feed the Future initiative and how it is working—everyday—to end global hunger.
This year, USDA international food assistance will benefit more than 9.7 million people worldwide under the Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition programs. The McGovern-Dole Program focuses on low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education. In Mali, more than 45,000 children and adults in 120 schools have been fed by a private voluntary organization with help from the USDA program.
Keynote speaker Ridwan Adhami, Creative Director for Islamic Relief USA, shared the impact of images and personal stories in the fight to alleviate the suffering caused by malnutrition and famine. These speeches sparked conversations throughout the night about ways in which we, as a country and as individuals, can implement innovative methods to address food insecurity.
One example of such an innovator is Shukri Abdinur, who spoke about her work to end hunger as a member of the Somali community. Ms. Abdinur, works for the American Refugee Committee’s “I am a Star” program, discussed ways in which her community in Minneapolis supports efforts to end famine in Somalia.
The USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has helped to organize the USDA Iftar for the past four years. The Center recognizes the importance of collaborating with faith-based groups to better serve communities in need, both at home and abroad.
Abed Ayoub, CEO of Islamic Relief USA, emphasized that theme.
“Tonight’s Iftar brings together people from all walks of life and religious backgrounds to emphasize the values that unite us as Americans, reminding us of our duty to help communities in need domestically and globally,” said Ayoub.