To bridge some of the gaps in food security, over 50 youth volunteers gathered in New York's Capital Region for the sixth edition of National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day.
Over 50 Muslim teenagers gathered to feed thousands of residents in New York's Capital Region last week. In its sixth year, the annual National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day brought together young Muslim volunteers and other members of the community in order to do good. This has proven particularly important as the pandemic, which has left many unemployed, continues across the United States. Program director Uzma Popal, who is in charge of ensuring the soup kitchen runs smoothly, shared that the yearly outreach initiative "is all about teaching and creating unity," especially during times of great social division, Spectrum News reports.
Program director Uzma Popal said including the youth program is all about teaching and creating unity in times where many are divided. https://t.co/WxCVcnXqzo— Spectrum News 1 Albany (@SpecNews1Albany) May 30, 2021
"One of the most important things is charity and giving to those in need," Popal stated. "How can we sleep at night with full stomachs when somebody else is, you know, 'I’m hungry and can’t sleep?’" Charity, known as zakat in Islam, is one of the religion's five pillars. Zakat does not simply refer to charitable gifts given out of kindness or generosity. Rather, it is the systematic distribution of 2.5 percent of one's wealth each year to benefit the poor. Nonetheless, initiatives such as the National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day are also meaningful ways of performing zakat.
Together with the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project, we raised almost $4,500 during our Ramadan Hunger Appeal! This Saturday, they are working to help feed our community for National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day. For more information visit https://t.co/qYlqaygQLD @mskp_2020 #NMSKday pic.twitter.com/eysgVW2vGV— Regional Food Bank (@FoodBankNENY) May 28, 2021
Wesal Adam, aged 16, is one of the teenagers who helped out during this year's programming. She said last week, "I’ve been here since 7:30 am. I was here yesterday and last night too doing some of this. It’s a long process but it’s definitely worth it." She was joined by dozens of other teenagers, like Donish Faiz, also aged 16. "Before this, people didn’t have enough," he shared. "But now, with Corona, they are going to have less and us helping them... They are probably going to need all of this." (By "all of this," Faiz was referring to the meals the volunteers helped cook and distribute.)
On National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day, ZF volunteers prepared 300 meals for the needy. pic.twitter.com/oV4mTyAko7— Zakat Foundation of America (@ZakatUS) May 24, 2016
As of May 29, the team of youth volunteers had managed to cook and distribute 2,000 free meals to community centers, homeless shelters, and senior living facilities across the Capital Region in the state of New York. Those who received the meals were deeply appreciative of the group's efforts. John Chicoine, a maintenance employee at Burns Senior Apartments, shared his deepest gratitude for the meals. "It does help a lot of people in here," he said. "They need it." Even prior to the pandemic, approximately 2.2 million people struggled with hunger in their households. According to Hunger Solutions New York, the pandemic has therefore presented unique challenges.
Oftentimes, government programs such as SNAP (commonly referred to as food stamps) do not bridge the gaps that exist within the system. While some individuals are unaware of how to apply for benefits, others do not find the provisions sufficient enough for a family of four. Furthermore, with schools closed owing to social distancing measures, young children dependent on meals provided in school have gone without adequate nutrition for long periods of time. In this regard, National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day attempts to close some of the gaps and ensure some food security for those in need.