Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sandwich Saturdays offer sustenance, and support, to the area's unhoused and food insecure

People in line next to a table of food containers
Deepanjali Sharma
Since it began a decade ago, Sandwich Saturday has grown to offer hot food, clothing and more every weekend in Billings Park in downtown Syracuse.

Every weekend for the past ten years, a group of volunteers has been offering sandwiches – and so much more – to the city’s unhoused and food-insecure.

Sandwich Saturday was started by Al-Amin Mohammad, who heads the outreach program We Rise Above the Streets and says he too was once unhoused, before he moved to Syracuse, and now finds inspiration in helping others.

"It helps me and it helps other people that serve along with me. And I love this work," said Mohammad. "You know, I'm not perfect at all, but We Rise Above the Streets is perfect."

Sandwich Saturday starts at Lincoln Middle School on the east side. There, dozens of volunteers prep ham and cheese sandwiches, along with mac and cheese, chicken wings and donuts.

The food is distributed – along with clothes, tampons, toothpaste and other items – in Billings Park in downtown Syracuse. Mohammad says some 300 people await them every Saturday morning.

Karen O’Hara says she volunteers with Rise Above because of its guiding motto: "If we eat, they eat."

"I believe that everybody should be fed, everybody should be housed," she said, regardless of how much money they may or may not have.

According to the Syracuse-Onondaga Food Systems Alliance, more than 45,000 people are food insecure in the region, and advocates who work people experiencing homelessness say Central New York has seen a 30% spike in its unhoused population in the past year.

Deepanjali Sharma is a graduate student studying Broadcast Digital Journalism at Syracuse University. She is expected to graduate in May 2024. As a student intern at WAER, Deepanjali helps produce digital and radio stories. She completed her bachelor's in journalism and communications from Cardiff University, UK.
Natasha Senjanovic teaches radio broadcasting at the Newhouse School while overseeing student journalists at WAER and creating original reporting for the station. She can also be heard hosting All Things Considered some weekday afternoons.