Capital Region Muslims offer food to needy at eight locations
By Paul Grondahl, April 28, 2016, Albany
Uzma Popal will coordinate hundreds of volunteers preparing and serving meals for nearly 1,000 homeless and needy people across the Capital Region on Saturday as part of an inaugural National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day.
Free meals ranging from chicken biryani to chili and hot dogs and a variety of salads will be served at eight locations in Albany, Schenectady and Troy organized through the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project. The 200 volunteers are members of seven local mosques. Meals will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
In addition, volunteers will plant crops at Patroon Land Farm in Voorheesville from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday in conjunction with the Northeast Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which distributes fresh produce to feed the hungry.
“The purpose of the National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day is to involve the whole of the community, Muslims and non-Muslims alike,” said Popal, director of the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project, based in Latham. “This will be people of many faiths and backgrounds creating unity by coming together to make sure no one goes hungry.”
Popal said the volunteer humanitarian effort also is meant to confront “growing Islamophobia and negative rhetoric.”
Each month, Popal’s group solicits donations and purchases food and cooks and serves a meal for about 400 people at homeless shelters.
On Saturday, the National Muslim Soup Kitchen will incorporate the efforts of up to 1,000 volunteers across the Capital Region and more than 27 organizations across the country. Organizers hope to make it an annual event.
Local volunteers will include members of Popal’s group, the Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany, the Muslim Student Association at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Albany Sisters of the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Community Center of the Capital District in Schenectady and FOCUS Churches of Albany.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan praised Saturday’s volunteerism “that brings us all together to help our neighbors.” She added, “The cooperation behind these events is evidence that, whatever our different faiths or backgrounds, we are united in our commitment to work toward the common good.”
The Muslim Soup Kitchen was started locally in 2003 by a group of Muslim youth from Troy and students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who wanted to practice their religion by feeding the hungry. They cited a quote attributed to the Prophet Mohammad: “He is not a Muslim who goes to bed satiated while his neighbor goes hungry.”
The local volunteers receive donations from supermarkets and businesses and raise money through bake sales. They also gather donations of clothing, school supplies, diapers and toiletries for the homeless and needy refugee families. About 98 percent of those they help are non-Muslims.
“We want to give back to those less fortunate,” Popal said. “Actions speak louder than words and this is a way to show people what true Islam is meant to be. We hope it helps change people’s minds about Muslims.”
Article Courtesy: Times Union