Friday is a blessed day for Muslims. And this Friday is my day to cook and ‘sell’ lunch boxes at our masjid.
Women who don’t have an income, often wonder how they can contribute to their masjids, especially monetarily. This is a simple way to give sadaqah. Our tiny masjid was in massive need of donations, as some of our donors had lost their jobs due to the recession. They could not keep up with their monthly commitments. Larger masjids and Islamic centers often have caterers or restaurants sell food to make money for the centers. So we started a lunch box program.
I rallied together a few women who like to cook and volunteer. We have about 30 volunteers; so each woman only has to cook once in 4 months. It is a simple and humble effort but Allah (swt) blessed it. Alhamdulillah, we made up the deficit and it is growing every week. We started with 30 boxes and this week we will make 50. So far we are averaging a $175 profit. Alhamdulillah.
How to set up a LUNCH BOX PROGRAM for your masjid:
- Get permission from the board or the committee in charge of social/fundraising
- Sell during Jumaah, after weekend school
- Organize volunteers to cook each week – set up teams of 2-3 so it is not a burden on any one person
- Have back up in case of emergency
- Make a calendar for the volunteers and post it in the masjid
- Ask volunteers to turn in their menu ahead of time
- Place the menu in a prominent place
- Set the amount of boxes to be made
- Advertise- get the word out through your masjid email list and posters
- Set a price but ask for suggested donation as it may be illegal to ‘sell’ homemade food in your county/state*
- Email/call with a reminder the week before their turn and update them on the number of boxes sold
- Set basic rules but give the volunteers creative space-micromanaging turns volunteers off-these are ours:
a) Use proper containers
b) All food should be fresh and zabihah
c) Include utensils
d) Include dessert and a salad. The lunch boxes are $ 5.00 and drinks are extra
e) Be on time
f) Inform the coordinator at least 2 weeks in advance if you can not cook or arranged a substitute
g) Turn the money over to the treasurer
h) Make dua for the success of the program
For organizational purposes, having one person organize and delegate responsibility to team members makes for less drama and more productivity. The feeling of accomplishment and camaraderie for the ladies is an iman high. We didn’t realize how many brothers/sisters we were providing a service for. For five dollars, they get a home cooked halal meal. We live in an area with out any halal restuarants nearby, the closest one is 30 minutes away. Some of our customers have sick or pregnant wives at home and they take these boxes home on Fridays as a ‘gift’; to give them a break. Others are bachelors and would have eaten out at a restaurant.
Our masjid is not officially a ‘masjid’, it is a center with a musalla. It is not open for all five salats yet. InshaAllah one day it will be. So the rules of not buying/selling in the masjid don’t apply to us. Check before you all start a program. If any other sisters have suggestions or have run a similar program, I would love to learn from them as well.
*Under California Retail food code a “Food facility” does not include any of the following: (1) A cooperative arrangement wherein no permanent facilities are used for storing or handling food. (2) A private home. (3) A church, private club, or other nonprofit association that gives or sells food to its members and guests, and not to the general public, at an event that occurs not more than three days in any 90-day period.
*A 1996 federal law that, as reported in a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, “protects all donations made in good faith . . . . The only exceptions are gross negligence or intentional misconduct. A plaintiff would have to prove that a company or individual intentionally tried to harm another person by making a donation of food it knew to be unsafe.”