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Zamir Hassan, founder of Muslims Against Hunger which evolved into Faiths Against Hunger developed the HUNGER VAN concept over a decade ago in response to what he saw as a weakness of the soup kitchen model of feeding hungry and homeless. While an effective means of providing meals to needy populations that live in their vicinities, soup kitchens obviously cannot reach persons who live farther away and do not have access to reliable transportation. Hassan decided that, if the people could not come to the soup kitchen, the soup kitchen would come to them. Thus HUNGER VAN project was born. Because his goal was not only to feed hungry and homeless people, but also to engage their more fortunate neighbors in service and voluntarism, Hassan designed the HUNGER VAN project to be labor- and volunteer-intensive. Rather than employing volunteers merely to deliver pre-packaged meals, HUNGER VAN places the responsibility for nearly all aspects of a feeding event in the hosting volunteer teams hands. HUNGER VAN staff members drive the van, and usually do the shopping (using money raised by sponsors), but once the fully-loaded HUNGER VAN arrives at a food prep location, the volunteers take over. In truth, volunteer involvement begins even before that. Part of the HV model requires that each feeding event have a sponsor. The two main responsibilities of the sponsor are to provide the funds to make, package, and deliver the meals, and to recruit volunteers to do the work. Factoring in the costs of food, gasoline, and other supplies,
HUNGER VAN project has set a price of $6.07 per hot meal or $4.85 per cold meal. Considering that the average feeding event provides around 100 meals, sponsors are encouraged to raise $607 per event. HUNGER VAN project encourages sponsors to pool their resources, to hold fundraisers, or to view the HUNGER VAN project feeding event as an offering of charity. HUNGER VAN project will also help subsidize a feeding event for groups that are unable to raise the necessary funds (e.g., college student groups), but they encourage each sponsor to cover as much of the cost as possible. HUNGER VAN project accepts online donations at http://www.hungervan.org, and provides an easy way for donors to pay for as many meals as they wish to prepare.
Once the funds have been provided and HUNGER VAN project has purchased the food and supplies, HUNGER VAN travels to a speciﬁed location—usually a home, a school, a community center, or a mosque or other place of worship—for food preparation. HUNGER VAN project recommends that sponsors provide 5–6 volunteers for this part of the feeding event. With that number of volunteers, it takes about two hours to prepare the meals. Sponsors have the option of providing a hot meal or a sandwich and salad. In either case, the meals are delicious and healthful. All menu items are vegetarian and have been created in consultation with a nutritionist to ensure their health value. HUNGER VAN project wants not only to feed hungry and homeless, but also to promote good eating habits.
A hot meal usually consists of rice, vegetables, and a savory lentil or bean dish, along with bread, a banana or other serving of fruit, and water or juice. HUNGER VAN project transports the meals from the food prep location to the feeding location, where volunteers set up tables with heated serving trays. Clients are served cafeteria-style. The other meal option includes a sandwich and a salad. The popular “Honey-B” sandwich features peanut butter, honey, banana slices, and cinnamon on whole wheat bread. The accompanying “Chickaroo” salad is really a meal in itself. It contains chickpeas, mango or other seasonal fruit, raisins, sunﬂower seeds, lettuce, tomatoes, and olives, tossed with olive oil and a south Asian masala spice mix. Volunteers place the sandwiches in bags and ﬁll 8-ounce serving cups with the “Chickaroo” salad, and put them in individual bags along with a banana and a bottle of water. Once the food preparation is complete, volunteers clean up the preparation area, re-load the HUNGER VAN, and then travel to a location where hungry and homeless people congregate but that is not serviced by a nearby soup kitchen. There they set up their tables and serve or hand out the meals. In some locations, HUNGER VAN volunteers have become such a consistent presence that the guests arrive and begin lining up well before Hunger Van even gets there.
Once the feeding event has concluded, the volunteers clean up and return all supplies
and leftover food (if any) to the VAN and HUNGER VAN returns home to prepare for the next hunger run.