Written by Peter Chu
Translated by Penny Liu
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
On July 3, 2020, the Tzu Chi Brooklyn Service Center (part of Tzu Chi’s Northeast Region) held its first grocery giveaway with the help of community partners. In total, the event benefited approximately 200 families while also advocating for care recipients to consider switching to a vegetarian diet.
The distribution was held at the entrance of the Tzu Chi office located near 57th Street and 6th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. Care recipients were asked to pre-register by WeChat so their arrivals could be skewed in keeping with disease prevention measures. Tzu Chi volunteers were happy to see most residents kept their appointments and abided by social distancing rules of 6 feet.
Under the direction of Tzu Chi Brooklyn Service Center director Kai Xing Lin, 40 volunteers helped pack and distribute the 200 vegetarian-friendly grocery packages. Several residents in the area, Chinese-speaking, arrived to help after learning about the distribution, many starting as early as 8 AM.
At the same time, Brooklyn-based organizations made contributions in their own ways, too. Mangyu Yu of the Academy of Medical & Public Health Services donated milk and eggs to include in the grocery packages. Furthermore, the Parent-Child Relationship Association contributed 20 volunteers to help care recipients complete the 2020 US Census as they waited.
One recipient was long-time vegetarian Xiuming Lu. Hearing about the event, she arrived and received a big bag of vegetables, fruits, and pantry items including Jing Si instant rice. Despite her family’s opposition to her vegetarian lifestyle, she had raised her six-year-old son as a vegetarian and, so far, hasn’t demonstrated any nutritional deficit. Regardless, Xiuming found affirmation of her lifestyle choice at the distribution.
One volunteer, Xiuying Chen said the Chinese restaurant where she used to work had closed – being one of many restaurants in New York City to fold as a result of strict restrictions on eateries. Moving on to work at a restaurant in Upper New York. She told us that many of her friends, too, living in Brooklyn were having a difficult time not having the right situations to move from New York – a phenomenon now happening in big cities around the world. Such individuals, unable to find the right employment opportunities to stay in the city they live in, will need assistance going forward.
Moreover, the pandemic and xenophobic fears related to COVID-19 have had a severe economic impact on New York City’s Asian communities. Tzu Chi is actively organizing subsequent grocery distributions and asking the residents in need to leave their contact information for future assistance. Though this distribution has helped some families put food on the table for now, there is much more work to be done.