Students Reach Out with "Lunch on Me"

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The UW Tacoma Muslim Student Association raised funds to distribute sack lunches to members of Tacoma's homeless community.

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A big idea doesn’t need to be complicated. Two pieces of bread, a little peanut butter and some jelly can do a lot of good. Just ask members of UW Tacoma’s Muslim Student Association [MSA]. The group recently launched the Lunch on Me campaign. As part of the project MSA started a GoFundMe page with the modest goal of collecting $1,000. The money would be used to provide sack lunches to members of Tacoma’s homeless community.

The group shared their GoFundMe page on social media in mid-April. The project attracted attention from lots of people including UW President Ana Mari Cauce. Within four days the MSA reached its goal. “People I never met were donating,” said UW Tacoma sophomore Nimo Ahmed. “I was shocked and happy to see that people believed in what we were doing.”

The idea is deceptively simple. Funds collected would go toward the purchase of fruit, bottled water, peanut butter, jelly and bread. “It’s not much but it’s our way of making sure someone who needs a meal gets one,” said Ahmed.

A thousand dollars goes a long way when the items you need to buy are relatively inexpensive. Mahad Fahiye is the Outreach Coordinator for the MSA. He says the group plans to use the money to distribute meals on a regular basis. “We really want to grow this project and include other student organizations.”

MSA members gathered at the Mattress Factory at the end of April to make their first batch of sack lunches. Making one peanut butter and jelly sandwich is easy. Making more than a hundred requires time and patience. “We had an assembly line of people with one side doing peanut butter and the other side doing jelly,” said Fahiye.

The group took a break around noon to attend Friday prayer. Afterwards, they finished loading up the bags with fruit, water and a handwritten message. “We wanted to include words of encouragement to let them know that they’re not alone, that someone cares,” said Fahiye.

Once the lunches were made, participants got into their cars and fanned out across the city. They spent hours handing out food to people they met. “It was a humbling experience,” said Fahiye. “Everyone was so grateful.”

All told the MSA gave out 150 sack lunches on their first outing. The group hopes to do it again before the quarter ends. “Ramadan is coming up and people are going to be fasting,” said Fahiye. “It’s going to be hard working with food while you’re fasting.”

The added challenge doesn’t seem to faze members of the MSA. They’re committed to helping others, a philosophy that is rooted in their faith. UW Tacoma student and MSA member Hawo Guyo put it best. “If you have the means to help people you should,” she said. “As Muslims we’re taught to always give back, especially to those who are less fortunate.”

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / May 26, 2017
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or