Muslim-operated food bank in midtown Phoenix helps families fill the gaps

[Source: Lawn Griffiths, East Valley Tribune] — The Islamic holy month of Ramadan began Monday.  Among many things, it is a time when Muslims are called to practice charity, or zakat, to the needy at the same time they practice fasting during daylight hours.  In the Valley and in 17 major U.S. cities today, the national Islamic Relief Foundation is hosting the Day of Dignity “to give Muslims an opportunity to fulfill their Ramadan obligation to help the needy.”

The Cultural Cup Food Bank, a Muslim-operated food bank in midtown Phoenix, is leading the Day of Dignity effort, which actually began Friday and runs through Sunday, intentionally bridging the three days in order to be an interfaith project that can better involve Christians, Jews, and Muslims whose weekend days of worship vary.  The main activities will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Human Services Campus, 1125 W. Jackson St., Phoenix, when more than 200 volunteers will distribute food, clothing, hygiene items, and toys. There will be health screenings for those in need. “It brings people from different faiths and backgrounds together in a common effort to relieve the suffering of those in need,” said Zarinah Awad, founder and director of the Cultural Cup.

Awad started the food bank in her home in 2003.  “I knew a lot of families, Muslim families, and immigrant Muslims that needed help with food, so I started this out of my home,” Awad said.  Some of the economic problems, she said, were related to a backlash toward Muslims in wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.  Her efforts snowballed, and she secured a small building in downtown Phoenix from which to dispense food and clothing. Then it moved into a larger building at 537 E. Osborn Road, where it barely has enough space for a food pantry, offices, and a Saturday wellness clinic.

Few know a Muslim food bank exists, Awad acknowledged.  There may even be the stereotype that Muslims take care of their own needy, as is especially seen in such faiths as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  “Muslims are just like anybody else,” she said.  “We live here in the United States, and we are suffering with the economy like anybody else.  It is affecting us, too.”  She said Muslim refugees arrive in the Valley and may have great difficulty finding jobs.  [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

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