When Rafeka Hossain arrived in Birmingham from Bangladesh to begin her master’s degree in public health at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in December 2021, she and her husband had no transportation.
As a result, they struggled to buy groceries, especially halal meat, which is necessary for their Muslim faith, she said.
Halal meat cannot be cut from the rear of the animal and there are specific guidelines that must be met when slaughtering the animal.
Hossain said the only places he could find halal meat were Hoover or Atlanta markets, and he rarely had time to go to either place, so it was hard to come by. UAB provided transportation to Walmart on Homewood’s Lakeshore Her Parkway, but there was no halal meat there, she said.
They also received food assistance from Blazer Kitchen, which helps students and faculty in need, but there was no halal meat in Blazer Kitchen either.
As a result, Mr. and Mrs. Hossein and their two children, ages 10 and 11, converted to vegetarianism for about three to four months. The Hossein family was not alone.
Blazer Kitchen organizers knew many international students who used their program were not accessing available frozen meat, said Lisa Higginbotham, UAB’s philanthropic fund manager who oversees the Blazer Kitchen program. said Mr. They didn’t understand why this was happening until March 2022, when volunteers conducted a survey to find out what shoppers wanted that weren’t offered.
According to Higginbotham, the reaction was overwhelmingly halal chicken.
Higginbotham contacted Mary Bodine Al-Sharif, an assistant professor at the UAB Department of Education who is a member of the Hoover-based Birmingham Islamic Society, for guidance on obtaining halal chicken.
The Birmingham Islamic Society immediately jumped at the opportunity to help. A single donor agrees to pay the cost of providing 800 pounds of halal chicken per month to Blazer Kitchens, and since July about 150 of the 750 or so UAB students who use Blazer Kitchens have been donated each month. Higginbotham said he receives halal chicken. Another of her 25 or so UAB employees also gets halal chicken through Blazer Kitchen, she said.
The chicken is delivered by Magic City Harvest, and volunteers show up to help bag the halal chicken, put it in the freezer and distribute it for a month, Higginbotham said. Blazer Kitchen got a new freezer to keep her halal chicken separate from other frozen meats, she said.
Staff at Blazer Kitchen are supported by volunteers from the Birmingham Islamic Society, Islamic student groups on campus and other shoppers who want to ensure everyone gets the nutrients they need, Higginbotham said. said.
“It’s been a great partnership,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to build community and understanding and ensure that all parts of the UAB family have access to nutritious food.”
Ashfaq Tafiq, honorary president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, which played a key role in securing the donation, said this was another example of a group practicing the principles of their faith in actions rather than just words. Stated.
He said they would continue to do so as long as there was a need and as long as the donor had the ability and will.
Hossein said she and her family are grateful. “I really appreciate their efforts.”