A Philadelphia-based nonprofit has been quietly serving a hearty helping of love and kindness to those in need. Over the course of the past six years, the organization known as Muslims Serve (previously seen under the moniker of Feed Philly) has served a collective 82,700 platters and established a total of 15 soup kitchens. Their mission to aid the homeless and impoverished has reached Camden in addition to its multiple Philadelphia locations. The corporation is staffed entirely by volunteers who work tirelessly to uphold the Islamic tradition of charity as it pertains to disadvantaged members of society, regardless of their backgrounds.
Humble Roots Have Built a Lasting Foundation
Muslims Serve embarked on a journey to forge faith, food, and community values approximately seven years ago. Back then, their soup kitchen was only open on Saturday afternoons. Chefs and servers scurried to feed the masses who arrived, striving for equal distribution of the available portions of halal chicken, rice, and side dishes.
Today, several of their locations are open up to four days a week. Volunteers distribute dinners hot and on time. Temple University’s Medical Students and Faculty clinic, Al-Shifa, are known to stop by, offering much needed medical services such as:
- Routine examinations
- Blood pressure and glucose screening
- Optometrist services
- Podiatric services and more
As the movement grows, Muslims Serve organizers strive to inspire an even deeper sense of community. Their mission includes making a dent in the digital sector of homelessness and poverty via forums where community members can openly express forthcoming needs.
Helping the Homeless in all Sorts of Weather
Former volunteer chef/server Bruce Lockett fondly recalls ushering hot plates outside in the rain, sun, sleet, and snow.
“It feels good to give back to the community,” he said. “It inspires us to take inventory-not just of the food- but of our lives, and to be aware of how we interact with our neighbors who are of many different ethnic backgrounds, ages, and faiths.”
The average Muslims Serve volunteer rises well before the pre-sunrise Fajr prayer and preps, cooks, and worships until the sun reaches the middle of the sky. By afternoon, that same volunteer transports hot, packaged, seasoned platters to multiple locations. Much of the food is distributed outside in community gathering places like public parks. Following hot days in the summer sun or cold days under the blustery winter sky, the cleanup process takes place.
“By the time you get home you’re pretty exhausted,” Bruce Lockett continues. “but you’re never too exhausted to make your prayers.”
The Islamic Message Behind the Mission
In the wake of the #peacefulmosque hashtags and post several attacks on Islamic communities, many have forgotten that generous gestures are in no way limited to the confines of any Islamic house of worship. Muslims are taught to exude excellence at all times. It is quite typical in Philadelphia to witness Muslims positively influencing the community through charitable acts, however little press those acts may garner. Muslims Serve strives to alleviate any misunderstandings non-Muslims might have with regards to the faith. They seek to dispel such notions with action, and their dedication is evident in the numbers.
1,000-Plus Donees Receive Meals Every Month
There is certainly no shortage of hungry mouths to feed in Philly. About 22% of Philadelphians, and incidentally, one out of every eight Americans are considered “food insecure”. This term indicates an intricate cycle of overlapping issues, where individuals or families are often forced to choose between food and:
- Medical Needs (such as prescriptions, doctor’s visits, vaccinations, etc.)
- Toiletries (especially hygiene products and feminine care items)
- Social Needs (like a working cell phone, internet connection, school supplies and more)
Many who come to Muslim Serve for food aren’t homeless…yet. That is why this organization is so important.
Making Other Needs Affordable Helps Potential Future Victims of the Housing Crisis Avoid Eviction
One of the most needed, and often overlooked, ways of combatting the affordable housing crisis is to make other needs more affordable. This is not to be mistaken as a solution. Rather, it is like a bridge. Perhaps not a bridge house, but a bridge oven, filled with nutrients for the severely rent burdened members of our society who have yet to fully collapse onto their knees. Offering lower costs in areas other than shelter can make a huge difference for someone who is desperately trying to decide whether that last dime should go to the rent bill or the food that belongs on the table.
Gathering Around the Table: Muslims Serve is Known to Partner with Other Charitable Organizations
Muslims Serve has successfully teamed up with other charitable organizations in the area such as:
- ICNA Relief
- Islamic Relief
- Shared Prosperity Philadelphia
- Multiple Regional Masajid in both PA and New Jersey
Muslims Serve is actively seeking partners and volunteers to join in their fight against food insecurity, rent insecurity, and poverty. Their continued commitment to diversity shows in their team comprised of everyday people from all walks of life. Contact them directly at 908-248-4498 for hours of specific soup kitchen locations.
Don’t forget to remind your legislators of the link between food insecurity and housing insecurity because we can’t solve one without solving the other.