|3/23/2017 9:00:00 AM|
New Muslim Food Pantry gets ecumenical aid
BY KATHLEEN LAMANNAThe Islamic Center of the Capital Region recently opened a food pantry in Schenectady, but there was a small problem: "It's still in a trial period," said coordinator Humera Khan.
The pantry must be up and running for six months before it can receive assistance from the Regional Food Bank. In order to stock the Muslim Food Pantry for the next six months, Deborah Riitano, executive director of the ecumenical Capital Area Council of Churches, helped orchestrate a food drive.
Ms. Riitano, who is Catholic, has experience with food pantries, having worked for several in the past, including the Food Pantry of the Capital District.
"Everyone wants to see them succeed," Ms. Riitano said of the Muslim food pantry, noting that its primary clientele is refugee families.
Starting with a call for help on Facebook, the CACC's efforts resulted in three carloads of food being delivered before the pantry had even opened. Harley McDevitt, coordinator of pastoral care for the Albany Diocese, pitched in by collecting food from employees of the Albany diocesan Pastoral Center.
"As the director of pastoral care ministry, our mission is to reach out to people," Ms. McDevitt told The Evangelist. "When I was contacted regarding this need at the Islamic Center, I certainly thought that it was something that, as a Catholic Christian, we would want to reach out to our brothers and sisters about."
Also helping to stock the pantry were the Roman Catholic/Muslim Dialogue Committee of the Albany Diocese and Catholic Charities. At a recent meeting of the diocesan Ecumenical Commission, members were asked to bring a bag of food to the meeting to donate, as well.
The food pantry's need is greater than one may realize, Ms. Khan told the Evangelist. The average refugee family includes seven people: "Some families have eight kids."
Because of this, the pantry needs large bags of flour, rice and oil, as well as toiletry items.
"Those are the things they can't buy with food stamps," Ms. Khan explained.
The Muslim Food Pantry is open to anyone, but does follow Halal, meaning that the food provided is that allowed to be eaten under Islamic Sharia law. Very little meat will be distributed.
The proof that the need is great was in the Muslim community's immediate response: "I think, on the first day they opened, 40 people showed up," Ms. Riitano said.
(The Muslim Food Pantry is open at the Islamic Center of the Capital Region, 21 North Lansing Rd., Schenectady, every second Saturday of the month from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. To donate food or for more information, contact 518-708-9804 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.iccdny.org.)
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