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‘Iftar on the go’ program reinvigorates call for $25M hunger relief program: Stringer

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer at Food Bank for New York City's Community Kitchen in Harlem on April 13, 2021.
Photo by Mark Hallum

City Comptroller Scott Stringer introduced an effort on Tuesday to get food pantry items that check all the halal boxes to Muslims experiencing food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic during Ramadan.

The last thing anyone should experience after fasting all day is an empty cupboard, according to speakers at Food Bank for New York City’s Community Kitchen in Harlem on Tuesday, which acted as a reminder for Stringer the city needs a $25 million emergency food fund for undocumented New Yorkers.

The city has the money, Stringer’s office said, in the form of existing Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.

“Federal and state programs discriminate and the city has to fill that gap with that $25 million. Seems like a lot of money. It’s really not when you look at the food insecurity that people are suffering as we continue through this pandemic. You know, everyone is starting to talk about, well, we’re going to be back to the roaring 20s. But we have in the Muslim community a vaccination standstill and we have to recognize that until you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be able to have the freedom of movement that we need to have,” Stringer said. “Second, there are people who are not able to provide for their children and their parents, and we still have the issue of a full-on halal program that meets the needs of the community and as far as I’m concerned, this is a crisis, and we have to address that through a real funding stream.”

Stinger’s call to Mayor Bill de Blasio went out in March in the form of a letter with about 100 community groups signed on who hoped the administration would use Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements to provide food to excluded groups such as undocumented New Yorkers.

Stringer, who is running for mayor in the June 22 Democratic primary, called for “culturally relevant” food to be included as options in meal plans through the program.

“The absence of food in the day and the humility and gratitude expressed serious in breaking your fast I’ve been sick or falling important in Ramadan,” Food Bank for New York City’s Community Kitchen Director Sultana Ocasio said. “Ensuring New Yorker’s access to free halal meals during Ramadan especially during a time of increased food insecurity and COVID is vital to supporting all members of our community across the line in their time of healing.”

The organization now provides for 3,000 households and 9,000 individuals per month with groceries that will likely only sustain them for a week. About 1,000 hot meals come out of their kitchen as well as about 1.6 million New Yorkers struggle with food insecurity by Ocasio’s count during an unrelated press conference two weeks prior.

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