As a restaurant owner in Owen Sound, Ontario, Sharif Rahman is surrounded by delicious food. But going to bed with a full stomach isn’t something he takes for granted.
“I’m from a country where there’s a lot of poor people,” says Rahman, who was born and raised in Bangladesh. “I understand and have seen the pain of hunger.”
Rahman says his family was fortunate to have enough food to eat, but it wasn’t something they took for granted.
“My mother always had to work it out or find some way to put enough food on the table, and that was her only objective,” says Rahman. “She saved here and she saved there. She had a mentality of saving.”
At the time, Rahman’s father was working as a soldier and his mother stayed at home with him and his four siblings. He explains that although his dad was able to secure a decent job, many other members of his community were unable to do so.
“My neighbours, my friends, my schoolmates – they always had empty or half-full stomachs,” he says.
“They always had issues because there was no opportunity to work,” he explains. “They had to borrow money if they didn’t have enough food, or sometimes their children stopped going to school to work manual jobs.”
Eleven years ago, Rahman left Bangladesh to study in England. He immigrated to Canada in 2013 and opened an Indian restaurant called The Curry House in Owen Sound.
Since leaving Bangladesh, Rahman says he’s always wanted to do something to help those who don’t have enough to eat.
“It was always painful,” says Rahman, as he remembers witnessing the hunger around him. “Bangladesh’s economy is getting better, but there are still millions of people – millions of children – that are going to sleep with half-empty stomachs.”
Then he heard about Harvest for Hunger, a Canadian Foodgrains Bank growing project organized by the Owen Sound Alliance Church. He knew he wanted to be involved.
Through the project, community members work together to plant, tend and sell a crop, donating the proceeds to the Foodgrains Bank. In 2016 they raised $31,000. Costs of things like seeds, chemicals and fertilizer are covered by donations from local donors.
Rahman decided he wanted to be part of Harvest for Hunger by hosting a fundraising dinner at The Curry House.
With help from the Owen Sound Alliance Church, he sold enough tickets to fill his restaurant to capacity. A couple people who couldn’t get in ordered take-out.
For Dave Epp, Foodgrains Bank Regional Representative in Ontario, Rahman’s generosity illustrates a common theme among Foodgrains Bank supporters.
“Many of our supporters are farmers who help make a difference by doing what they know—by harvesting and selling their crops,” he says. “In the same way, Sharif is helping by doing what he knows—by cooking delicious food.”
The first dinner was so successful that Rahman decided to hold another one a couple months later. It also filled the restaurant. Altogether, both dinners raised $1,400 to help end hunger.
Rahman is now organizing a series of similar fundraising dinners with other restaurant owners in Ontario, hoping to raise money to help end global hunger.
“Every time I see food on the table, I feel very fortunate that I’ve come to Canada,” he says. “We are very privileged here.”