Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
In February of 2021, powerful snowstorms resulted in a massive electricity generation failure in Texas, resulting in shortages of food and a lack of heating amidst the winter blast. Blackouts rolled across the state, leaving millions of homes and businesses without power in a time when people already grappled with the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The historic winter storm additionally caused water pipes to burst from the low temperatures and icing, and people suffered from water shortages for days. During this crisis, cooking and preparing hot meals became a serious obstacle. Food at supermarkets had nearly sold out, and there were long waiting lines in the driveway outside restaurants.
A previous pandemic relief distribution of Jing Si Instant Rice, however, went a long way to help wait out the storm.
It all started in 2006 while Tzu Chi had been carrying out a relief mission in Mainland China. The venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen witnessed that many people from the rural area had to travel down from the mountains for food in the freezing cold, some even fainting upon arrival due to exhaustion. The bags of rice they received, however, were quite heavy. She knew how difficult it would be for the elderly to carry the unwieldy bags, and in the aftermath of a disaster, people may not have the resources needed to properly cook it either. That’s when she began to contemplate ways Tzu Chi might be able to provide better, more convenient sustenance for their care recipients. She envisioned a dehydrated rice that was not only lighter to transport, but could also be prepared more efficiently, and was nutritious as well. She entrusted one of her disciples, Master DeHan, with the task. And thus, after over two years of hard work, Jing Si Instant Rice was made a reality.
Amid the historic storm, Tzu Chi volunteers from our Southern regional office once again called to mind the loving intention and mindfulness of Master Cheng Yen as their families appreciated the convenience of the Jing Si Rice at home.
The Winter Storm Of The Century
Tzu Chi volunteers remember seeing the weather forecast for President’s Day, February 15th, saying that a cold front would hit Houston, Texas, and the outdoor temperature would drop to the single digits. Volunteer Hope Huang was thinking of staying home during the long weekend.
Unexpectedly, early in the morning on the 16th, Hope was alerted to the sudden seriousness of the situation. She woke to darkness and discovered that there had been a power outage in the area. At that moment, gas and water were still available, but her mobile phone was left with little to no battery life. And then, they received further bad news. The water was going to shut off soon.
She hurriedly picked up a bottle to fill it with water from the faucet, thoughts swimming with concerns over how she would prepare and cook meals for her family, including her mother-in-law who was in her nineties. She now had only one bottle of water, no electricity, and the food in her refrigerator would soon spoil if it wasn’t kept cold. But how would she wash the vegetables before cooking them for her family, and in a pandemic as well? She decided that if she was going to use the water she’d managed to save, she would have to do so mindfully, and remembered the Jing Si Instant Rice she’d been given previously.
The package contained dehydrated rice, vegetables, and seasonings. It only required a bit of water, no matter if it was hot or cold; it could be soaked or boiled and ready to be served in minutes. It was certainly ideal in her situation, and meant she wouldn’t have to travel to the supermarket in inclement weather. Hope added the water to a pack of Jing Si Instant Rice and put it on the gas stove, the family of three thankful to be able to enjoy a hot meal.
After trying the Jing Si Instant Rice, Hope switched to cooking the Jing Si Instant Noodles for their next meal, enjoying three packs of kimchi-flavored noodles. At noon on Wednesday, she cooked rice porridge, added all the vegetables left in the refrigerator to the porridge, and ate it with bread.
Hot Meals During The Winter Storm
Similarly, Michelle Yang, another volunteer, also used a gas stove to cook Tzu Chi’s Jing Si Instant Rice and noodles to get through the snowstorm. She spoke about how the power being down caused an inconvenience for everyone. She also mentioned that friends and family expressed how lucky they were to have some Jing Si Instant Rice on hand, since even if there was no electricity and no way to boil hot water, they could still at least soak the Jing Si Instant Rice in cold water for a satisfying meal.
“At this time, I think of the thoughtfulness of Master Cheng Yen and her disciples residing at the Jing Si Abode in Taiwan,” said Michelle. “The Jing Si Instant Rice has saved the day for many people. I’m also grateful to have received these rice and noodles. I feel truly blessed!”
Jing Si Instant Rice not only preserves the nutrition of the original rice, but also can be ready in 40 minutes when soaked in cold water, 20 minutes when soaked in hot water, or it can be cooked and ready to eat in just 5 minutes. Moreover, each package of rice comes with dehydrated vegetables and seasoning packages, which are both nutritionally balanced and delicious.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Dharma Master Cheng Yen and the other Masters residing at the Jing Si Abode in Taiwan decided to send bulk quantities of Jing Si Instant Rice and noodles to the United States as essential pandemic relief supplies for families struggling with food insecurity. And, unexpectedly, the rice helped many families avoid hunger during the winter storm as well. Nationwide, Tzu Chi volunteers have provided 2,330,304 surgical masks, 208,545 N95 masks, 28,114 handmade cloth masks, 81,420 pairs of gloves, 42,778 protective goggles, 29,171 face shields, 24,261 bags of groceries, 20,251 isolation gowns, and more to those most in need. It’s perhaps never been a more important time to show compassion through action, and Tzu Chi volunteers strive to deliver their aid to those most vulnerable with the utmost care. We’re all in this together, and we’re here for the long haul.