Desi Talk

14 November 24, 2017 CITY VIEWS – that’s all you need to know By StaffWriter ood insecurity in under-served South Asian communities in Indian-Americans, in the NewYork metropolitan area, was the running theme at South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) 2017 Gala held on Nov. 12, at the Congregation Rodeph Shalom. The SACSS opened the first South Asian Food Pantry in NewYork City, in July 2016 to tackle the issue of hunger and food inse- curity among under-served South Asians in a culturally appropriate manner, accord- ing to a press release from the organiza- tion. The South Asian Food Pantry’s achievements and operations and how Indian-Americans and others were availing of its services, were featured this May 17 by News India Times (http://www.newsindia- addresses-hunger-food-insecurity-in-new- york-city/26987) and carried in several of its publications. In just over a year, the South Asian Food Pantry is serving 1,263 individuals every week, with new community members reg- istering every week, a press release from the organization said. Early this year the South Asian Food Pantry was also featured in a NewYork Times report that focused on the importance of serving culturally palat- able food. “Every week we have new clients that register for The South Asian Food Pantry, this emphasizes why it is important to have more such programs and expand them to other underserved neighborhoods such as Jamaica and Jackson Heights” Sudha Acharya, executive director of SACSS is quoted saying at the gala. NewYork City’s Food Policy Director Barbara Turk, the chief guest at the gala, talked about being impressed by what she saw during her visit to the South Asian Food Pantry. Michelin-star chefs Hemant Mathur of Tulsi fame and Surbhi Sahni of Bittersweet NYC fame, were honored at the event for their culinary achievements and various contributions to the South Asian and immigrant communities. Other notable dignitaries at the event included Congresswoman Grace Meng, D- NewYork, a long-time champion and sup- porter of SACSS; and Nepal Consul General Madhu Kumar Marasini. At the gala SACSS also recognized volunteers Shalini Saini, Lilavati Patel and Elba E Licera, for their support. Youth Volunteer Nikhil Prajith Kumar was recognized as the youth leader of the year. Actor Pallavi Sastry entertained the audience as she emceed the event. Comedian KC Arora of the ABDC (American Born Desi Comics) group kept the audience laughing. The evening con- cluded with a rousing Masala Bhangra dance by Sarina Jain. Started in 2000 to empower and inte- grate South Asian and other underserved immigrants in the economic and civic life of NewYork, SACSS serves more than 6,500 clients each year through services in the areas of healthcare access, senior support and benefits, the food pantry, English and computer classes and civic engagement. The South Asian Food Pantry is open every Friday from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. Apart from providing staple items such as pasta, cereal and fruit juice, the South Asian Food Pantry specializes in giving South Asian items such as rice, flour, lentils and spices. For additional information about SACSS programs contact at or 718-321-7929. South Asian Food Pantry Serving Indian-Americans, Others, Focus Of Community Organization Gala South Asian Council for Social Services board members with Congresswoman Grace Meng, D-NY, sixth from left, at the Nov. 12 annual gala. Sudha Acharya, left, executive director of the South Asian Council for Social Services, and New York City’s Food Policy Director Barbara Turk, chief guest, pre- senting Youth Volunteer, Nikhil Prajith Kumar with a gift at SACSS Gala 2017, Nov. 12. Congresswoman Grace Meng, D- NY, right, Nepal Consul General Madhu Kumar Marasini, second from right, and Devi Ramchandran, left, Honor Michelin-Star Chef Surbhi Sahni. F Photos:SACSS By Nora Luongo M ussab Ali, who won a prestigious Truman scholarship last year, is breaking barriers for his Muslim community. When Mussab Ali, a Rutgers University- Newark senior, won a seat on the Jersey City school board this month in a tight race, he was stunned. He had tried once before and lost. This time he won by 68 votes. “It still feels kind of surreal,” says the Honors College student, who managed a full course load of 22 credits and responsi- bilities as president of the Muslim Students Association in addition to running his suc- cessful campaign. Brian Murphy, director of the Honors College at Rutgers University-Newark (RU- N) said he checked in throughout the night to see how Mussab was doing and got word after midnight that he’d won. “We’re thrilled!”, Murphy says. “The Honors College has brilliant students who often take what they’ve learned in our class- rooms and research laboratories and apply it in service of the public good. Jersey City schools will be in good hands, and the Honors College is proud to count Mussab as one of our own.” This was Ali’s second attempt at the school board seat, and he says the name recogni- tion from his run last year, as well as support from the teach- ers union, pro- vided a large boost to his campaign. Ali ran on the platform of being a voice for students. He says his first priority is to create a permanent non-vot- ing student member of the board, so that there will be a student representative that will get young people more involved in local politics. School officials believe that Ali, who is 20 years old, is the youngest person ever elected to the nine-member Jersey City school board, but Ali is more proud of the fact that he is breaking barriers for his Muslim community. “I think I’m the first Muslim elected official in Jersey City. Being the youngest is great, but eventually some- one younger will come along. But to be the first Muslim, to open the door for the com- munity and give them this opportunity, that is huge.” RU–N Chancellor Nancy Cantor, whom Ali sought out as a mentor, says Ali’s com- mitment to public service was evident in the sophistication exhibited in his cam- paigns. “In our personal conversations, he has shown himself to be very thoughtful in his analysis of how to close the achieve- ment gap in urban schools, questions of local versus state control of public schools and the best ways to build educational pathways to college for students in under- resourced urban schools,” Cantor says. “Perhaps it is not surprising, then, how he built on his campaign experience last year, garnering endorsements along the way, and won the election this year.” Ali, who has a double major in neurobi- ology and economics and ultimately wants to pursue health policy, is also exploring health and wellness initiatives, such as a program to provide eyeglasses to students who cannot afford them and requiring vendors seeking food contracts in the schools to meet stricter nutritional guide- lines. He also wants to leverage his connec- tion to RU-N in his new role. “The great thing about having Chancellor Cantor as one of my mentors is learning from what RU-Newark has done as an anchor institu- tion in Newark. I’d like to reach out to our university and say ‘how can we build more partnerships? How can we expand on that into Jersey City?’ ” Earlier this year, Ali became the first stu- dent from RU-N awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship. The scholarship helps aspiring public service leaders pay for graduate education. He says that network has already provided him with tremendous support. Scholars from several other states not only supported his campaign, but also joined him at his home to watch the elec- tion results come in. Andrew Rich, execu- tive secretary of the Truman Scholarship Foundation said, “Mussab is a phenomenal young man, who in his interview for the Truman made clear not only his commitment to public service in general, but also to his commu- nity of Jersey City. It’s particularly exciting to see him at such a young age elected to serve the school board and the people of Jersey City.” Ali is looking forward to serving his one- year term and hopes his service will set an example for others. -W ITH PERMISSION FROM R UTGERS U NIVERSITY . T HIS ARTICLE FIRST RAN ON R UTGERS WEBSITE N OV . 15 . South Asian-American Senior From Rutgers U Wins Tight Race For Jersey City School Board Mussab Ali, 20 year old, asenior at Rutgers University- Newark, won a seat on the Jersey City School Board.