One family feeds the Rockaways

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Shah’s Halal Food Cart relocated from its usual spot by Queens College and set up in the Rockaways to hand out free meals to the victims of Sandy.
Shah’s Halal Food Cart relocated from its usual spot by Queens College and set up in the Rockaways to hand out free meals to the victims of Sandy.

One family-owned food cart rolled down to the Rockaways to feed Sandy survivors their first warm meal in weeks.

Two weeks ago, Shah’s Halal Food Cart relocated from its usual spot by Queens College and set up in the Rockaways, handing out chicken and lamb over rice, falafel and kebabs for free.

For many displaced locals, it was the first warm meal they had eaten since the storm hit.

“They were really happy,” said Khalid Mashriqi, who co-owns the food cart with his brother, Shah. “People were saying this was the best meal they’ve had in a week.”

Assisted by Mashriqi’s uncle, NYPD Detective Qudratulla Mashriqi, Mashriqi parked the cart outside a church on 129th Street in the Rockaways. Crowds gathered by Mashriqi’s cart, soaking in the heat as it wafted off the griddle. Over 600 people scarfed down hot meals, staying by the cart until hours after the sun had set. For those with ailing relatives or young children, the vendors handed out extra food. By the end of the night, they had given away every single scrap.

Seeing Sandy’s destruction first-hand, Mashriqi said, was overwhelming.

The idea to serve Rockaway residents came to Mashriqi from hearing about the devastation from his uncle, who had been helping out in the decimated region in the weeks since the storm. The nine-year police veteran’s story of an entire row of homes, obliterated by the violent water, pulled at Mashriqi’s heartstrings.

During the food cart’s day-long stint in the Rockaways, people tried to leave money in exchange for lunch. At the end of their shift, Mashriqi folded the $120 tip in an envelope and handed it to a woman and her three young grandchildren.

“A lot of people were so thankful and asking what they could do,” Mashriqi said. “Just pray. Just pray the situation gets better.”