Kids, Ramadan & Food Insecurity

As the war between Israel and Palestine continues, many Palestinian parents struggle to feed their families. Violence disrupts humanitarian aid efforts. Children go to sleep hungry. And for Muslim families, the usual observance of Ramadan is complicated by the scarcity of resources that living in a war-torn country brings.

A hallmark of the Muslim observance of Ramadan is fasting during the day and breaking that fast each evening. Then, after 30 days of fasting, participants celebrate the end of Ramadan with Eid Al Fitr, a joyous festival of feasting and sweet treats. The rhythm of going without food as a practice of self-discipline and solidarity with the poor and then breaking fast with others sets a spiritual tone for the rest of the year.

But circumstances such as war or poverty can make it difficult for Muslim families to observe Ramadan. Islam provides exemptions from fasting for those who are already malnourished or – like pregnant women and young children – might be physically harmed by it. But being unable to participate because of food insecurity feels different. It adds a spiritual burden to the physical struggle families are already experiencing.

Muslim families already consider social inequity as part of their Ramadan practice. As Ramadan comes to a close and Eid Al Fitr approaches (April 9-10, 2024), non-Muslim families might also reflect on food insecurity and its effects on spirituality. Such reflections could focus on the specific challenges faced by Palestinians this year or the ill effects of food insecurity more generally.

Older children, in particular, can wonder about the connections between bodily and spiritual needs. Parents and caregivers might ask: Where do you put most of your attention when you are hungry or hurting? How does hunger or pain affect your ability to engage in spiritual practices? When are you best able to be mindful and attentive?

Children can also reflect on the many causes of food insecurity besides war. Make a list together of everything you can think of that might make it difficult to get groceries. Next to each item, identify things you or others could do to reduce or eliminate the obstacles. Do some research to determine which problems exist in your community and make a plan to help.

In addition to analytical approaches, invite children to imagine interacting with those who are hungry and need assistance. Use a resource like Guided Meditation: Food Insecurity or encourage kids to imagine being someone without much money looking for groceries. Ask them to picture where they might go and what they might do to get food. Then flip the script and encourage them to imagine being someone others approach to ask for food. Ask them to picture how they would respond.

You might also seize the opportunity to learn more about Islam and its beliefs about eliminating hunger. Search for online sites that explore Ramadan, fasting, and hunger, such as O Allāh, Satisfy Every Hungry Person: Reflections On Ramadan or Ramadan Dua: Orphans, Hungry and the Needy. Read the Muslim sacred text excerpts, prayers, and reflections together. Share with one another the similarities and differences you notice between the Muslim resources and your own family’s beliefs and practices.

Photo credit UN News



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