The former restaurant owner has dedicated himself to offering warm meals on Election Day to people living in food-insecure areas as they stand in long lines.
Jaber founded the Migrant Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that trains and hires immigrants and undocumented workers for careers in the restaurant industry. On Nov. 3, he is partnering with the Infatuation and Zagat restaurant guides to serve more than 50,000 free meals in cities such as Philadelphia and Miami, where voter turnout is projected to be high and lines have the potential to stretch farther than the eye can see.
With videos showing people already waiting for up to 11 hours to cast early in-person votes in many states, including Georgia, “it’s pretty clear to me that there’s a need out there,” Jaber said. Near Atlanta, some voters who waited for hours said they held one another’s places in line while they ran to a nearby McDonald’s to grab food.
In the weeks before Election Day, Jaber said, he’ll be working with Feed the Polls, a nonpartisan group started this fall by Zagat CEO and Infatuation co-founder Chris Stang, to hire food truck operators to cook all kinds of meals, from Cuban cuisine to traditional Yemeni meat and rice dishes. The hope is that by serving free meals to people in economically disadvantaged communities, it will be easier for them to stay in line to vote, he said.
“The United States was the only country to give me a home and a place to vote, so I don’t want people to take their liberties for granted,” said Jaber, who immigrated to the United States two weeks before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He also doesn’t want them to go hungry.
“People should not be going without food in America, and yet that’s what is happening in too many neighborhoods as people exercise their right to vote,” he said. “We’re hoping to take care of that basic need for a good meal.”
Jaber said that when Stang reached out to him to help coordinate a massive feeding of voters on Election Day, “I didn’t hesitate to say yes.”
Stang, 41, said the idea for feeding voters came about after he listened to Michelle Obama’s speech in August at the Democratic National Convention.
“She said something about people packing a lunch or dinner so they could stay in line to vote, and that stayed with me,” he said. “I thought, ‘There must be something we can do to make it easier for people in these long lines.’ ”
Stang said he was happy to learn that he had company: Another nonpartisan group, Pizza to the Polls, is delivering free hot slices to voters at crowded polling locations.
Feed the Polls has raised around $85,000, said Stang, and Lady Gaga recently gave the group a shout-out on Instagram. Donations will be used to pay food truck operators who will be outside the polls offering free meals for voters.
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Make sure you’re poll ready for a fun time in line to vote, because it might be a long one! I’m going to make PB&J sandwiches for my voting snack! Make sure to pack your own snacks, and go to feedthepolls.org or @pizzatothepolls to learn how to donate to help feed people in line! ❤️
“It’s a way to help food truck workers who have been struggling during covid, plus get a balanced meal in the hands of a voter who needs it,” Stang said. “The people in line will see that the food truck operators are their neighbors — they’re invested in the community they’ll be feeding on Election Day.”
“We’re trying to feed people and encourage them to vote, not affect the outcome of the election,” he added. “Regardless of who someone is voting for, anything that increases voting in this country is a good thing.”
Currently, Feed the Polls hopes to serve meals in Miami, Philadelphia, New York City and Los Angeles, as well as various places in Michigan and Wisconsin, Jaber said.
“But as more donations come in, we hope to expand the map,” he said. “The plan is to be there with volunteers from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to serve hot meals to anyone who would like one.”
More recently, he opened a pop-up kitchen in Brooklyn focusing on Latin American and Middle Eastern cuisine. For every $12 meal he sells, Jaber said, he donates another meal to a New Yorker in need.
On Nov. 3, he said, he is hopeful that the people he feeds at the polls will take away more than a meal.
“I also want them to take away the message that their vote really does count,” he said. “Don’t let anything keep you from doing your civic duty. We’ll take care of you and feed you, but please make sure you get out there and vote.”
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