Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
Japanese rice washed and cooked, rice vinegar added, and the delicious foundation for sushi was ready. Next came preparations of an array of colorful ingredients: boiled bean skin, cucumber, pickled yellow radish, asparagus, all cut into long thin strips about ¼ inch thick.
Finally, the rice, veggie additions, and vegetarian floss (imitation meat) were spread onto a sheet of Nori then rolled tight thanks to a mat lined with plastic wrap, and presto – a roll of delicious vegetarian sushi appeared.
The creators of this and other sushi were volunteers from Tzu Chi USA’s HQ area who had gathered at the San Dimas campus on April 22, to work together preparing a veggie feast of rolls and bean-skin sushi. Their efforts would give birth to 100 lovely vegetarian sushi Bentos ready for distribution on Earth Day, 2020, as a special gift.
Rushing to reach them before noon, the volunteers successfully delivered the freshly prepared vegetarian sushi lunch Bentos to several government locations that day. Their destinations included Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s office, San Dimas City Hall, the offices of the Bonita Unified School District, Duarte City Hall, and other government offices.
The healthy and nutritious vegetarian lunches they had made were for government officials, so they could taste delicious meat-free food while reflecting on the intent behind Tzu Chi USA’s Very Veggie Movement (VVM). One of the core aims of the movement, which advocates a vegetarian diet, is environmental protection, making this the perfect gift on Earth Day’s 50th anniversary.
When he learned that volunteers were planning to deliver sushi Bentos to his offices, Tom Adams, Mayor of Monrovia, let them know that he would come to Tzu Chi USA’s HQ campus to pick them up instead.
Adams arrived around 11 AM and saw a drawing celebrating Earth Day in the plaza near the main building’s entrance, where Jackson Chen, CEO of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, greeted him.
Tom then watched the Tzu Chi volunteers making vegetarian sushi together. He admired their consistent dedication to spreading a spirit of kindness and appreciated the love and care he was used to seeing them offer in the community and towards Mother Earth.
Jackson shared Tzu Chi’s philosophy about vegetarianism, and Tom agreed with what was being proposed.
Dr. Han Huang, Chief Executive Vice President of Tzu Chi USA, visited San Dimas City Hall and the offices of the Bonita Unified School District, bringing the Bentos to give out. As he offered the gifts to staff members, he explained the contents of the lunch boxes, pointing out the health benefits of the marinated ginger slices that accompanied the meal. It was a perfect opportunity to spread the word about vegetarianism and Tzu Chi USA’s VVM.
Daniel Jordan, Duarte City Manager, also appreciated Tzu Chi USA’s celebration of Earth Day in this unique way. He expressed his belief that what Tzu Chi volunteers were doing was an excellent new means of letting people know that Earth Day isn’t only about caring for the planet. It’s also about making ourselves and the planet healthier, and a vegetarian diet can help.
Hoang Nguyen, a staff member at Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s office, and Miguel Martinez, Supervisor’s Staff Assistant for the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, responded with feedback on how we can protect the environment. They named efforts to cherish water resources, reduce energy waste, care for the ecological system, and eat more vegetables and fruits, as means that help minimize damage to Mother Earth. They emphasized that these aren’t only things to be done on Earth Day, but are also actions one should practice daily.
Encouraging love for Mother Earth, while spreading the word about Tzu Chi USA’s VVM through the gift of vegetarian sushi, was a fitting way to celebrate Earth Day 2020. And, at Tzu Chi USA, our volunteers are always looking for new approaches to benefiting the communities we serve, as we continuously help those in need, promote healthy vegetarian diets, advocate recycling to protect the environment, and more.
Yet at the present moment, when the novel coronavirus pandemic has impacted people worldwide, serving the needs of healthcare working on the frontlines of COVID-19, who are at risk due to shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), is a priority.