Monthly Archives: December 2014

Innovant #holiday party, made meals to feed the hungry for @ZeroHunger #Giveback

IMG_4088 December 12, 2014. The sky is getting colder, and the holidays are approaching, while New Yorkers get their last-minute shopping done; still, there are many hungry folk to whom it’s good to give consideration when skies turn and remain stark slate gray. As it so happens, Tzedakah (charity) is a fundamental part of the Jewish way of life; so, Eli Shapiro of West End Synagogue and vice president of Innovant, a cutting edge office design company, from his eager willingness to give charity by helping the homeless eat, recently donated $2000 to Hunger Van during a holiday party sponsored for the homeless on Long Island, which is a continuation of the complicit cooperation between Hunger Van and West End Synagogue: a family-friendly reconstructionalist congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, New York. IMG_4115IMG_4159IMG_4166IMG_4191IMG_4178IMG_4173IMG_4170

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It was a busy day for the many people involved in the production of over 100 meals for homeless people living in NYC, this event taking place in one room, with Hunger Van founder Zamir Hassan lecturing. Mr. Hassan states that so many people are surprised at the total number of hungry people here in the US per annum, which is 49 million. He gives his standard lecture at every Hunger Van event, in which he goes over the definition of hunger: that is, when a person does not know where his next meal is coming from, the total number of hungry people in the US, and the fact that he was raised a Muslim’s motivating him to help humanity through soup kitchens.

IMG_4099“We have so much to be thankful for; we have iPhone 6,” he likes to jokingly remark, insisting that our parents have given us everything. “There are homeless people right in our backyard, in the train stations and under bridges who get nothing to eat. As a Muslim, I cannot go to bed if my neighbor is still hungry.” Zakat is the mandatory fifth pillar of Islam, required for the physical and spiritual purification of a Muslim’s yearly earnings and in order to help those in the community who are more needy than he or she is.

IMG_4150At the Long Island holiday for homeless people, all thanks to the stunning donation procured by Innovant and Eli Shapiro, the meeting tables were soon filled with Honey Bee and Chickaroo salads, the completely vegan Hunger Van standard: a menu created primarily for the benefit of the health of homeless individuals, who often cannot get a truly good meal, but make do on what is cheaper and more fattening. The Hunger Van menu also has the capacity of standing up to time; the food doesn’t spoil so quick, lasting several hours, even outside of a refrigerator. The Honey Bee sandwich is a concoction of slices of whole wheat, filled with a drizzle of honey, banana slices, peanut butter, and a sprinkling of cinnamon; whereas the Chickaroo Salad is comprised of chopped greens, olives, cranberries,  sunflower seeds, pineapple chunks, chopped baby carrots, green peas, and avocado oil, all mixed and deposited into 12-ounce Styrofoam containers.IMG_4127

Every volunteer wears gloves for the sake of hygiene; they generally make and then distribute the parcels to people in need according to normal ethics of cleanliness.  There were certainly plenty of volunteers working in this room to make things happen: cutting bread, spreading peanut butter, making salad, working together! Mr. Hassan emphasizes, it is not the food that gets produced, that is the main element of Hunger Van, but the phenomenon of cooperation.  A common point that’s brought up during speeches, is that humans are created equal; and the homeless man who has no dinner is also part and parcel of Creation made in the image of the Lord, according to many religious perspectives. Incidental to the cooperation of this remarkable Hunger Van event on Long Island and its prodigious turnout, but relative to the religion of many of those volunteering, namely Judaism: Traditional Jews give at least ten percent of their income to charity; and Business Week’s 2006 list of The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists included at least 15 Jews.
To see Innovant volunteers in action click
https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/100326004352196375859/albums/6094275062300537569

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Innovant  terms “The Innovant Experience” is a reference to the unique collaborative design and development process offered to customer project teams. The Innovant design and development experts bring unparalleled experience to clients and their designers, offering insightful direction on product detailing, new functionality features, and efficient adaptation of standard and special materials. Innovant committed to enabling clients to realize their vision without sacrificing speed and adherence to budget. This is accomplished through a strong company culture and exceptional products.

About HUNGER VAN

IMG_4100The Hunger Van was born in 2011 because Muslims Against Hunger founder Zamir Hassan, a practicing Muslim and resident of Bedminster, New Jersey decided that if hungry people such as the ones congregating around parks and train stations, could not come to the food, the food would come to them in vans, conveniently packaged and ready to eat. The cost of producing one hot meal is $6.07 and $4.85 for cold ones; and meals as well as events are donation-based. Sponsors are encouraged to raise funds for the feeding event. All of the food is vegan and can last for a long period of time without spoiling. for more information about Hunger Van project click here

The author of this blog, Alice M. Baskous, is a New Jersey resident and Hunter College grad who works in and frequents Manhattan Island where she spends many of her hours studying French, walking around, and writing poetry as well as fiction. She does community service with the homeless as well as hungry locals of Tompkins Square Park in downtown New York City three times a week between 10 and 11 AM, and also at other Hunger Van sponsored events.

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Twining of Muslims and Jews @ Columbia University for @ZeroHunger @HungerVan @ShareAmerica

IMG_3617 November 16, 2014. It is 3:10 P.M. at Columbia University which happens to be hosting a large Hunger Van community vent scheduled to last until 5:00 in the evening with a full room of people from different organizations, great and small, attending. There are plenty of volunteers from mixed religions attending. This time, Danial Saleem of MSA Columba U and Will Eastman of FFEU are the organizer for this program.

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There are five long tables in the conference room which lies immediately above a rather long and grandiose foyer. Everyone is called to make a big circle where they are told, “We’ll not be making food but assembling it due to school regulations; we have six items we’re going to pack. Eight to ten people can cut the carrots in half. Why? This is not about the food itself; it’s about keeping busy.”

Since the lentil soup was not such a big hit the last time it was employed in Hunger Van runs, there are beans on the table today. The group’s instructed that they are supposed to throw away anything that does not look okay to distribute. All of the healthy snack bags are supposed to be filled, but aside from this, the volunteers today must sort out themselves what they are going to do and where. Danial Salim, President of the Muslim Student Association, from Project Nas, reminds everyone they need gloves for the sake of hygiene. Will Eastman tells everyone at 6:00 P.M. the Jewish Community Center on 76th Street will be giving out free pizza and plenty of other food for a Jewish Muslim solidarity event.

In the room, there seem to be three girls from Kings Bay Young Peace Builders in BrooklynIMG_3640 IMG_3639which is a community center Amity school, and it’s through this youth program these participants learned about the Columbia U. Hunger Van event. From Romemu are Zena and Paul, who are siblings, and Deborah, who has never been to a Hunger Van event before. Romemu is a single entity, they explain, and the Jewish Renewal Synagogue business office is on 105th Street. There’s a Columbia U. journalism student writing for the same event, and she is hurriedly getting around the room with her writing materials. Danial and Menna are both Columbia U. students and part of the MSA and also regular attendees at Hunger Van, whereas Fatima and Habiba, the grand adviser, from the MSA, are not. Habiba says that today’s event is a good way for her to work with her friend, who is another teacher, and spend quality time. Hunger Van is “a nice opportunity for people to engage in a manner that they wouldn’t.

Over 200 meals were made, so people without money this week are going to be blessed, as one person stated.  There is one box for breads, and all else is packaged in plastic take out bags, that is, by 4:13 P.M.

Many of today’s products are from Panera Bread, including rosemary and caraway seed loaves several girls are slicing.IMG_3647

It’s only later that Zamir Hassan, founder of Hunger Van, gives his customary speech. He explains that the legal definition of hunger is that a person is hungry if he or she doesn’t know from where the next meal will be coming. In fact, 49 millions people in the US are hungry. Since money was cut from food programs, there are more people on the street looking for food; and they’ll be getting it from us! Morristown is one of the richest towns in NJ with all kinds of famous restaurants, and there are hungry people. Zamir and his son fed 200 homeless people at a Morristown soup kitchen in 2000, which impressed him so much Mr. Hassan started Muslims Against Hunger. NYC is one of the riches cities in the country, and yet the hungry are everywhere. “Watch who you’re voting for, because more cuts are coming,” he says. “Hunger Van’s a grassroots program to which one can donate $6 per meal.”

Paul states about his synagogue, “The last Sunday of every month at the synagogue, we buy the food, make it, and distribute it outside. You’re all together with the same goal and intentions no matter how your day has been. Zamir, thank you so much for bringing this here.”

IMG_3630Will continues, “We met Zamir Hassan at Rutger’s State University first. Shalom Salam brought Muslims and Jews together in 2010. Every year it grows across the world with acts of community service learning about people of other faiths. They were Muslims Against Hunger doing a great job bringing lots of people together.” Will works for The Foundation of Ethnic Understanding With a Focus on Young Leadership.

Danial Salim from Project Nas, says, “It’s been a dynamic, great experience, and it’s our collective duty to get back. Many of us are stuck in the bubble of where our next homework assignment is going to be done or where we’ll get our next coffee. The shelter is only a block away, though, and these people are really in need. Thank you for contributing to this good cause.”

“Thank you for hosting us,” says a representative of Youth Leadership. “It was a great event.”IMG_3661

Zamir goes on to say that most of the programs are held in small apartments, and with six volunteers and two hours, there can be 100 meals made. At Rutger’s there’s a good association with Hunger Van; they all go into the street and distribute.

IMG_3666At 5:00 P.M. all is done, and everything will be loaded onto the van which will be parked by Starbucks uptown. The meals take 20 minutes to distribute, and plenty of people will wind up helping with this invaluable process, who will also be included in the essential group photo taken at the end of the Hunger Van event.

Click on this link to see more photos:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/103233823142709413530/albums

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IMG_3670About HUNGER VAN
The Hunger Van was born in 2011 because Muslims Against Hunger founder Zamir Hassan, a practicing Muslim and resident of Bedminster, New Jersey decided that if hungry people such as the ones congregating around parks and train stations, could not come to the food, the food would come to them in vans, conveniently packaged and ready to eat. The cost of producing one hot meal is $6.07 and $4.85 for cold ones; and meals as well as events are donation-based. Sponsors are encouraged to raise funds for the feeding event. All of the food is vegan and can last for a long period of time without spoiling. for more information about Hunger Van project click here

The author of this blog, Alice M. Baskous, is a New Jersey resident and Hunter College grad who works in and frequents Manhattan Island where she spends many of her hours studying French, walking around, and writing poetry as well as fiction. She does community service with the homeless as well as hungry locals of Tompkins Square Park in downtown New York City three times a week between 10 AM and 11, and also at other Hunger Van sponsored events.

Hunger Van at Arab American Family Services – Bringing communities together.

The founder of Hunger Van, Zamir Hassan and the founders of Arab American Family Services (AAFS), Itedal Shalabi and Nareman Taha; formed a friendship during their 7th annual Domestic Violence and Cancer awareness walk. Post the walk Zamir visited AAFS and joined hands to create awareness and get the community mobilized towards the goal of Hunger Van: “Drive against Hunger”10669989_710660462348761_6522954709082907210_n

On December 5th, 2014, AAFS hosted the Hunger Van and had an amazing turn out of volunteers. Ten hard working and amazing volunteers gathered around the conference room table at AAFS and even though it was their only time off from a hectic schedule, they chose to volunteer. To see more volunteers in action, please click here.IMG_3981

Within an hour and a half 150 meals inclusive of the ‘Honey-B’ sandwiches and a healthy spiced salad was prepared to not only provide a delicious meal but also one with a bit of zing. Zamir shared his secret salad recipe and the many moms present there were eager to make the same at home. Z’s were shaped using honey on whole wheat bread representing ‘Zero Hunger’, cinnamon sprinkled, bananas sliced and peanut butter generously applied to provide the needy with a scrumptious meal.

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AAFS on a regular basis works towards empowering those in need and this was one of the many initiatives they took towards building a stronger community in Bridgeview, Illinois. Hunger Van loved the dedication put in by each and every volunteer, their efforts and their enthusiasm to do good through out this process.

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Zamir also got a chance to introduce himself and his project to the staff at AAFS and was thrilled to learn that not only would they love to be a part of his efforts but also would love to get their kids involved. Wafa Zegar one of the staff at AAFS mentioned how her daughter likes to feed the homeless on her birthday, which then sparked an interesting conversation about how Hunger Van has previously hosted ‘Birthday Parties with a Good Deed’ and how kids have a remarkable impact on society when they themselves wish to spread generosity.

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Please click on the link to see more pictures of Volunteers in action.

Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and the beautiful founders of AAFS for hosting the Hunger Van and being a part of a successful drive.

About Arab American Family Services: AAFS provides service to over 30 communities in the South Suburban Chicagoland area. Their programs focus on the areas of safety net case management as well as domestic violence prevention and intervention, elderly and disability assistance, cultural diversity training, mental health assistance, immigration services, community health and education programs and youth programs. AAFS is a non-political, non-religious organization that focuses on building respect and understanding between Arab-Americans and the mainstream-American culture. For more information about AAFS please click here.

IMG_3895About HUNGER VAN The Hunger Van was born in 2011 because Muslims Against Hunger founder Zamir Hassan, a practicing Muslim and resident of Bedminster, New Jersey decided that if hungry people such as the ones congregating around parks and train stations, could not come to the food, the food would come to them in vans, conveniently packaged and ready to eat. The cost of producing one hot meal is $6.07 and $4.85 for cold ones; and meals as well as events are donation-based. Sponsors are encouraged to raise funds for the feeding event. All of the food is vegan and can last for a long period of time without spoiling. for more information about Hunger Van project click here

IMG_4085The author of this blog, Falak Zaffer Ghatala, is a resident of Chicago, IL and volunteers for multiple non-profits (including the Hunger Van) to assist the needy in Chicago. She has a Masters in Chemical Biology but has changed careers to serve humanity. She currently works at AAFS as an Adult Education Instructor and spends her free time studying religion and running a campaign called ‘The Do Good Campaign’. Her passion lies in doing good and truly believes that: “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

#Interfaith #Action at Reformed Church, NJ #Vegan meals for #Homeless @HungerVan @ZeroHunger @ShareAmerica

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November 8, 2014. It is Sunday morning, and Hunger Van has been invited to a local church in New Brunswick that happens to be equipped with its own kitchen, to make meals for the homeless with an interfaith community. Volunteers gather around the van to carry onto the porch and through the door, supplies they’ll be needing for the kitchen, as quick as possible. Zamir Hassan tells everyone, they’ll be making around 150 meals today.

“Some places are too small to accommodate Hunger Van. We tried to get some new people to volunteer for Hunger Van as an interfaith event,” a tall Muslim woman named Shabana the host of the event IMG_3505says to everyone.IMG_3529

“We do this program even in Manhattan’s tiny apartments, and it works. This is great, though; we even have a kitchen to wash pots today. Before you get started, I’d like to know why you’re here?” Zamir Hassan, founder of Muslims Against Hunger, Faith Against Hunger, and Hunger Van, states. Others respond they are there to help out and to meet people’s needs so they’ll have enough to eat. In a circle, they recite their names: Tracy, Karen, Jacquelyn, Alfreda, Chris, Belinda, Diva, and Isha.IMG_3495

‘I’ve always been a volunteer doing things like feeding the homeless; this work is right up my alley,” one woman enthusiastically continues. Another says, “Hunger’s a problem in our society, there’s no reason for it.”

IMG_3516“To make a small difference means a lot. Once, my son didn’t eat all of his cereal – he’s two by the way – because he doesn’t understand there’s not enough food in the world to feed everyone; and there are plenty of hungry people,” a mother recounts.

“The government cuts money from homeless programs all the time. This type of work is about engaging people to get involved. The definition of hunger as well as the number of people in the US and number of hungry people are things we’re going to talk about. Can anyone guess the total number of hungry people there are in the United States?” Mr. Hassan continues. One of the children guesses 7 million; an adult guesses 50 million. 49 million is the correct answer. “As a person of faith in a church, is this acceptable?” he inquires. The founder of Hunger Van goes on to inform the crowd about how he started this institution in 2000 in the city of Morristown, NJ when Zamir as chaperone with his son went to feed 200 people at a soup kitchen. “The homeless, they’re in our backyard and people don’t even know it. Muslims are more excited to do good things now, as it so happens.” Mr. Hassan created a training kit, starting an early version of the program asking for volunteers. Now he goes all over the country, doing this sort of thing.IMG_3491

“In August due to pressure from Interfaith groups, the government did not cut funds, but they eventually cut funds. The numbers are up, there are more people, social security checks are cut, so we have to get involved and it’s going to get tougher. By doing this, we make a little dent in this whole issue; today we are making two items, that is: sandwiches and salads,” Zamir Hassan says.

A couple of women already know how to make the Honey-B sandwich, which is simply a concoction of sliced whole wheat, honey, cinnamon, and peanut butter. Hunger Van’s Chicaroo salad is comprised of chopped salad greens, cranberries, green peas, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, slices baby carrots, spices, avocado oil, and olives, and is typically mixed together in a large pot before being divided into 8-oz. cups.

Jacquelyn Juricic of “A Better World Cafe” is here working with Hunger Van. She happens to be the president of the board of Who’s My Neighbor, a non-profit organization. She volunteers at the cafe, has been doing so for five years. She explains that this community cafe makes affordable eating healthy and affordable, has only suggested prices, one complimentary dish is on the menu, and there are vegetarian and vegan options. The other non-profit with the cafe is Elijah’s Promise. The whole business is a volunteer-run operation. The cafe has been serving for more than five years, lunch only; and the food is very good, she says. Better World’s salads are its signature dishes. On the web, more information can be searched for at betterworldcafe.org.

Meanwhile, two kids help to make garnishes for the salad. They say that this is their first Hunger Van event.

By noon, it’s clean up time, though it takes a while since sandwiches are still being made to fill the boxes a batch at a time. Half and hour later, and the crew continues to wrap up sandwiches and wash dishes.

“We want people to tell their friends HungerVan.org’s the website we are using. Hopefully all of you guys had fun today. The best experience is when we hand the stuff out; thanks so very much for coming and let’s do this again!”

Mr. Hassan says the thing to do is go to “Hosting of Hunger Van”, pick a time and date, and see if there’s an open spot for six volunteers and 100 meals. Any house with a kitchen and dining table is good enough for Hunger Van. This type of activity is also helping Jews and Muslims come together to talk about how good they are: you bring Jews and I’ll bring Muslims, that sort of interaction; and these meetings through this program can happen! In fact, on the 16th at Columbia University, there is going to be an intercultural Hunger Van exchange.  “In the Quran, more than 200 times, it says salat is done five times, and zakat once a day should be practiced. We usually narrow our definition of faith into what’s convenient for us. This way, as we have done here, we get to practice our faith.”

Click on the link to see more photos: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/100326004352196375859/albums/6086174295785573361

About HUNGER VAN
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The Hunger Van was born in 2011 because Muslims Against Hunger founder Zamir Hassan, a practicing Muslim and resident of Bedminster, New Jersey decided that if hungry people such as the ones congregating around parks and train stations, could not come to the food, the food would come to them in vans, conveniently packaged and ready to eat. The cost of producing one hot meal is $6.07 and $4.85 for cold ones; and meals as well as events are donation-based. Sponsors are encouraged to raise funds for the feeding event. All of the food is vegan and can last for a long period of time without spoiling. for more information about Hunger Van project click here

The author of this blog, Alice M. Baskous, is a New Jersey resident and Hunter College grad who works in and frequents Manhattan Island where she spends many of her hours studying French, walking around, and writing poetry as well as fiction. She does community service with the homeless as well as hungry locals of Tompkins Square Park in downtown New York City three times a week between 10 AM and 11, and also at other Hunger Van sponsored events.

Shalom Aleikhem: Hunger Van @AmShalom – An Act of Righteousness

Shalom Aleikhem: Hunger Van with Am Shalom – An Act of Righteousness

“When you are asked in the world to come, ‘What was your work?’ and you answer: ‘I fed the hungry,’ you will be told: ‘This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry’” (Midrash to Psalm 118:17). 

“And they give food in spite of love for it to the needy, the orphan, and the captive” (Qur’an 76:8)

Religion is a way of life that teaches us how to live, teaches us how to be compassionate and teaches us right from wrong. Nevertheless, even if we did take away the texts and the spirituality from our lives, we are left with this systematic world with humanity and its basic survival needs. Our own humanity doesn’t permit us to live without compassion and our own body reminds us daily of our hunger pangs. Yet we often end up neglecting another human being who maybe in dire need of a meal, maybe due to lack of time, or passion.

IMG_2903However on October 19th, 2014 things were a little different. Zamir Hassan, the founder of the Hunger Van Project stood in front of a group of volunteers from Am Shalom (a Jewish Synagogue in Glencoe, IL) and explained the consequence of hunger, who is it that is considered to be hungry, and how a group of small volunteers can effectively make a huge difference in the world. For pictures from this event, please click here.

IMG_2905Am Shalom, on a monthly basis gathers together a group of volunteers to prepare meals for the homeless in the Chicago area. However, on this particular Sunday, Patti Vile (a member of the Synagogue) and Zamir Hassan decided to combine the efforts of both the organizations to help feed the needy. Volunteers gathered from both groups, with varied backgrounds and age groups and were stationed with different tasks for the hour. The youngest volunteer of the day was 11 years old and he made a great deal of difference in the community without even realizing his impact.

Hunger Van would like to thank all its volunteers including the children, Noah Magill (age 14), Jonah Magill (age 12) and Levi Magill (age 11) who worked continuously for over an hour to prepare over a 150 sandwiches for the poor.

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Thanks to this passionate group of volunteers and the Hunger Van project, humanity was able to work towards achieving one common goal. Feeding the hungry!

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to see volunteers in action click the link

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/100326004352196375859/albums/6087677037968620625

About HUNGER VAN
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The Hunger Van was born in 2011 because Muslims Against Hunger founder Zamir Hassan, a practicing Muslim and resident of Bedminster, New Jersey decided that if hungry people such as the ones congregating around parks and train stations, could not come to the food, the food would come to them in vans, conveniently packaged and ready to eat. The cost of producing one hot meal is $6.07 and $4.85 for cold ones; and meals as well as events are donation-based. Sponsors are encouraged to raise funds for the feeding event. All of the food is vegan and can last for a long period of time without spoiling. for more information about Hunger Van project click here

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The author of this blog, Falak Zaffer Ghatala, is a resident of Chicago, IL and works and volunteers for multiple non-profits to assist the needy in Chicago. She has a Masters in Chemical Biology but has changed careers to serve humanity. She spends her free time studying religion and running a campaign called ‘The Do Good Campaign’. Her passion lies in doing good and truly believes that: “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca