By, Sabrina Enayatulla
At the end of the month, the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) will launch its first mobile soup kitchen through its Feed the Hungry initiative, which will aim to feed close to 1,000 homeless people across the Bay Area each month.
For the past three years the Bay Area chapter has been delivering hot meals to the homeless populations in Oakland and San Francisco on the last Saturday of every month. Volunteers have been donating their time and money, purchasing hot meals from local restaurants (everything from fried chicken and potatoes to chicken tikka masala) and driving it to designated areas in inner cities. But that will change with the launch of the new initiative, which includes a truck that will carry all the food, appropriately labeled, “Mercy on wheels.”
“We have rights and responsibilities toward our communities,” said Obaid Siddiqui, President of ICNA’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter. “Unfortunately, we often find [that many of us] talk a lot about our rights, but we’re not as proactive in fulfilling our responsibilities. This is an opportunity for Muslims to help.”
Through the Feed the Hungry program, Siddiqui said the chapter wanted to build a soup kitchen in the Bay Area, but property and maintenance costs were sky high. Another major downside of building a facility, was that the organization wouldn’t be able to reach as many people, according to Ameen Ashraf, member of the Bay Area chapter.
“The cities we travel to are 60 to 70 miles apart,” Ashraf said. “Even if the facility was in the heart of one of those cities, we wouldn’t be able to serve the other community.”
The process of acquiring the proper permits to run a mobile soup kitchen took about a year, according to Siddiqui who added that the state officials were supportive of their initiative, and helped them to ensure that all health regulations and state guidelines were properly met. Ultimately, Feed the Hungry aims to reach a few hundred people daily, though Ashraf says the transition will be gradual.
“Right now, we want to go from once a month to twice a month to once a week,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t go so often, and then have to pull back because of a lack of resources.”
Ashraf said one local restaurant has already volunteered to donate food once a month, and the organization is now looking for other restaurants to sponsor enough food for 250 to 300 meals.
“Our goal is to find another restaurant willing to help us,” Ashraf said. “We’re calling out to generous business owners to step up and say, ‘I’m willing to do this.'”
Feed the Hungry’s first mobile soup kitchen truck was unveiled at the Bay Area fund raising banquet on June 20. To find out more about Feed the Hungry, to volunteer, or help sponsor the initiative, visit www.icnabay.us
Photo Courtesy of ICNA Bay Chapter.