Muslim Community Responds to New York City’s Food Insecurity Crisis

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Rabat – With US mosques closed during the holy month of Ramadan, a popular time for community gatherings and a time for fasting from sunrise to sunset, New York City’s Muslim community is stepping up their collaborative efforts to mitigate the city’s food insecurity crisis. 

The Muslim Community Center (MCC), based out of Brooklyn, has traditionally supported New York City’s homeless community through their Ramadan charity work and food drive. This year, the organization’s efforts are expanding to support a greater population of those in need while facilitating volunteer work as a new tool to strengthen their faith. 

The MCC has seen nearly double the number of beneficiaries at their Ramadan food drive. 

“As you see here [filming a long line of people waiting to receive free meals], there are hundreds of people here,” said a member of the community whose video was posted on the MCC Facebook page. The line of people waiting to receive donations stretches approximately six blocks in just one of the four New York City locations set up between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Organizers say that regardless of religion, anyone is welcome to receive the food. 

The MCC is providing hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves to volunteers and the local community in an effort to maintain a safe donation process. 

Restaurant and food cart owners, shelters, and the New York Police Department’s Muslim Officers Society have teamed up with the MCC by realigning their businesses and organizations to replace the feeling of praying together in a mosque with a common goal to support those in need.  

Adeel Rana, the president of the Muslim Officer Society, told Al Jazeera that approximately 1,000 people benefit from the food carts daily. 

“The feeling we’re getting is really reminiscing about being inside a mosque and praying together,” said Mohamed Bahi, director of the MCC. 

“Instead of us praying together standing feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder, we’re feeding the homeless together feet to feet, shoulder to shoulder,” he added.

The MCC will also be facilitating a “Drive-Thru Eid El Fitr Feast” on May 24, the date expected to mark the end of Ramadan. The drive-thru event aims to provide families, particularly children, with a safe and fun way to celebrate Eid. Community members will be able to drive their cars up to the MCC’s masjid and receive free candy, balloons, and other gifts with the help of volunteers. 

New York City remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, with more than 193,000 confirmed cases and 15,786 deaths. Aside from the thousands of lives lost, the novel coronavirus has taken its toll on the economy, putting thousands in need of financial support.

According to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, food insecurity in the city has already doubled due to the pandemic, putting people suffering from homelessness in an especially vulnerable position. 

Read also: Empty Prayer Rooms and Donation Boxes: Mosques Face Financial Crisis  

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