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Saturday December 4th

Memory of local community members honored through annual Interfaith Food Drive

<p>The local Interfaith Food Shuttle has held an annual food drive to commemorate Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu Salha since their deaths in 2015. Photo courtesy of Shadi Sadi.&nbsp;</p>
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The local Interfaith Food Shuttle has held an annual food drive to commemorate Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu Salha since their deaths in 2015. Photo courtesy of Shadi Sadi. 

Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were murdered in their Chapel Hill home in February 2015. One of Barakat’s last Facebook posts showed a picture of him and Yusor Abu-Salha giving out dental supplies and food to the homeless in downtown Durham. 

Barakat’s long-time friend Shadi Sadi is honoring his friend and the spirit of giving that that last Facebook post so clearly represented with a sixth annual Interfaith Food Drive Saturday. Sadi and his wife Amani Asad said Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha's philanthropic efforts inspired them to start a food drive in their honor. The Interfaith Food Drive is collecting food and money donations for the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina (the Food Bank).

Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were Muslim, and Sadi said they used the teachings of their faith to help others in their everyday lives. 

“Our faith, in general, teaches us that we should be giving to those who are less fortunate,” Sadi said. “If you look at Deah, Yusor and Razan, that’s what they were doing. They were actually living out their faith.”

Sadi said that in 2015, the food that the Interfaith Food Drive collected translated to around 21,000 meals. With their last drive in 2019, this number grew to over 92,000 meals.

“This is something we never could have imagined,” Sadi said. “We are getting farther away from the tragedy, but every year more people want to join us. The more that people are learning about the drive, the more they want to be a part of it.”

The food drive also has an online virtual drive, where they have already met more than 90 percent of their donation goal. They are also collecting donations through a number of partner organizations, including the UNC Adams School of Dentistry, where Barakat studied as a graduate student, and UNC’s Muslim Students Association (MSA).

UNC first-year and MSA freshman representative Osamah Atieh said Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were family friends of his. He said he supports the cause behind the food drive and said it encourages people to talk about religious divisions.

“I feel like the cause behind the drive is important," Atieh said. "At the end of the day, we’re all human. Even with different religious perspectives, nothing ever justifies killing another human. The idea of coming together to support a cause that talks about how this hate crime has occurred is important, especially with existing islamophobia today.”

All of the food donated at the collection sites will be taken to the Islamic Association of Raleigh on Feb. 29 where it will be packed onto a truck for the Food Bank. This final drop off event lasts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Sadi said he encourages people to come to the event to help out and engage with the community. 

“We have people from Christian denominations, people from the Jewish community, companies from across the Triangle, the UNC school of dentistry, the N.C. State design school — there are all these people from different aspects of life, and they all come to the mosque parking lot and talk and understand each other,” Sadi said. “That’s an amazing, beautiful thing and has always been a big goal of mine. Yes, we do want donations, but we really encourage people to come out to our big drop off day and meet everybody that’s out there.”

Over the past five years, the Interfaith Food Drive has provided resources for more than 244,000 meals, and it is one of the largest third party food drives for the Food Bank.

Jennifer Caslin, the marketing and project manager for the Food Bank, said the impact of the Interfaith Food Drive is significant.

"We are really honored to be a part of their (drive) every year," Caslin said. "They have brought in, in the last five food drives, around a quarter of a million meals, which is huge for an organization of their size.”

The Food Bank has more than 900 partner agencies and serves 34 counties. Caslin said donations like the ones provided by the Interfaith Food Drive are key to the organization. 

“One of the main parts of our mission is to feed people and nourish people,” she said. “That is the core part of what we do, and it happens through donations or funds.”

Sadi said this year, the Interfaith Food Drive hopes to exceed their donations from last year, but more importantly, they hope to bring people together through a good cause.

“The more subtle goal of the food drive that not everyone realizes is about bringing people together,” Sadi said. “There are so many people who want to be part of this goodness. It’s all about reaching out to them and telling them what you’re doing.”

Those who wish to donate to the Interfaith Food Drive can do so here

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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