This piece was published in The Guardian in April 2014.
The Sufra food bank – run from a small community centre on a north-west London housing estate – is in high demand. The Muslim charity’s Wednesday afternoon session sees a constant stream of people coming to claim food packages: young couples, men on their own and mothers trying to keep toddlers quiet.
Ali Jawad, a 22-year-old business student and regular volunteer, takes some details from another Sufra “guest” and begins to fill blue plastic bags with cereal, soup cans, pasta, rice, biscuits and baby food. The amount given depends on the size of the family, but is designed to get each one through the next five days.
“It’s been a real eye-opener,” says Jawad. “You know poverty is out there, but you don’t always see it. So to speak to single mothers who can’t afford food for their child, or someone walking miles across London to get here, it can be heartbreaking. We try to be a friendly face as well as providing the food they need.”
Food banks in the UK are overwhelmingly operated by church-affiliated groups, including the 421 outlets run by Christian charity, the Trussell Trust. Yet Sufra, meaning “come to the table” in Arabic, is one of a growing number of Muslim organisations also attempting to tackle food poverty.
Read more at The Guardian.