Tzu-Chi mobile food pantry serves 350 people on first day

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Photo/Anthony Victoria: San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Dale Marsden handing out blankets, of fresh food to resident Frank Soto during the unveiling of Tzu Chi’s mobile food pantry on November 20.

Feeding five children everyday on a single salary is not an easy task, explained San Bernardino resident Gabriela Hernandez.

Hernandez said the bag of food donations she received from Buddhist organization Tzu Chi Foundation on Sunday morning, which included fresh fruit and vegetables, tortillas, beans, and a bag of rice, provides enough support to help her make food for her family for a couple of days. Hernandez’s husband is the only one in the family currently employed.

“It’s a plate of food we have to eat,” she said in Spanish. “They saw our community’s need. It’s rare to see this kind of devotion to helping others.”

Approximately 350 people were given food bags by the Taiwanese nonprofit, along with a blanket, sweater, and Christmas ornaments during an official ceremony at Indian Springs High School to commemorate the establishment of a mobile food pantry.

According to Tzu-Chi and San Bernardino City Unified School District officials, another food distribution is scheduled next month–with future allocations planned for twice a month beginning in 2017.

The idea to establish a food pantry came when the foundation received news of students breaking into the cafeteria at nearby Graciano Gomez Elementary School during a weekend because they had no food at home, described philanthropists Dr. Tom and Dr. Lily Rivera–the two individuals who helped bring Tzu Chi’s medical services to the region 22-years-ago.

Tzu Chi representatives believe their desire to help disadvantaged communities stems from the belief that all human beings are, “one family.”

“There is one important thing in this package,” said Tzu Chi Foundation Chief Executive Officer Han Huang. “And it’s love from people you don’t know. They do it with heart and soul.”

In 2015, Tzu Chi served 110 low-income individuals a day through their health and food services, as well as provide blankets and warm clothing to 6,140 families.

Indian Springs High School Principal Alan Kay is convinced helping feed families translates to student success.

“If a student is worried about what their next meal is going to be, they’re not as worried about their education,” Kay said.  “If their stomachs are full, they can fully engage with the material. It’s a crucial element to our community’s success.”

San Bernardino resident Frank Soto was thankful for the food. “I think it’s awesome,” he said. “Hopefully next time, I can access their medical services.”

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