In a kitchen in Queens, New York, a chef named Dhuha is making potato kibbeh—Middle Eastern croquettes made with ground beef—that the women in her family taught her how to shape just so. Dhuha, who grew up in Baghdad, works at Eat OffBeat, a food delivery business that provides home-style meals prepared by refugees resettled in New York City.
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Life as an immigrant brings a host of challenges that arise from adapting to a new country, culture, language, diet, and workforce. And it’s an increasingly common situation: A 2016 United Nations report found that 1 in every 113 people in the world is now either internally displaced, an asylum-seeker or a refugee. During the fiscal year 2016, 84,994 refugees resettled in the U.S. and 5,028 of them moved to New York State.
Women typically make up half of these populations, the report noted, and “those who are unaccompanied, pregnant, heads of households, disabled, or elderly are especially vulnerable.”
Programs like Eat OffBeat aim to help these women land on their feet. And they’re not alone: The philosophy of the group has taken root in other parts of the world as well. In London, for instance, Mazi Mas hires women from migrant and refugee communities as chefs. In Paris, Les Cuistots Migrateurs employs refugee caterers. And at Hot Bread Kitchen, just 40 minutes south in East Harlem, women with low-income status, most of them immigrants who hail from diverse backgrounds ranging from Turkey to Ethiopia, participate in a six-month-long program designed to teach them how to make a variety of breads from around the world.