A Better Meal, a Cycle of Love: Tzu Chi Medical Foundation Delivers PPE and Vegetarian Lunches to Health Workers

National Headquarters  |  August 14, 2020
On July 9th, Tzu Chi volunteers delivered 300 vegan lunch boxes to show their support and encourage health care workers at the Riverside University Health System Medical Center. Photo by Mandy Lo.

Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

Tzu Chi volunteers have lovingly and mindfully provided support for medical institutions across the nation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to recommendations made by dedicated medical professionals, more medical workers from the healthcare industry have begun to gain a greater awareness of Tzu Chi’s missions.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is one such organization that previously received supplies from Tzu Chi Medical Foundation (TCMF), and referred Riverside University Health System Medical Center to apply for supplies from Tzu Chi USA. On July 7th, 2020, they graciously picked up their supplies, and also agreed to participate in the A Better Meal, A Better Earth campaign. On July 9th, volunteers delivered vegan lunch boxes to the hospital’s COVID-19 medical team to help ensure they could have a nutritious meal during their busy day, and to promote the campaign.

Inland Empire University Hospital

Nicole Peterson Orr (right), the Interim Executive Director of Riverside University Health System Foundation, accepts medical supplies from TCMF along with warm greetings from Tzu Chi volunteer, Mary Keh. Photo by Mandy Lo.
Nicole Peterson Orr (third left) joins a group photo to promote A Better Meal, A Better Earth with Tzu Chi volunteers. Photo by Mandy Lo.

 On the morning of July 7th, Nicole Peterson Orr, the Interim Executive Director of Riverside University Health System Foundation, drove two hours to Tzu Chi’s Clinic in Alhambra, California, to retrieve the donated medical supplies.

Nicole was truly grateful for the help, as such supplies have come to be seen as precious among health workers facing shortages. The donation included 2,000 medical masks, 480 N95 masks, 300 coveralls, 300 face shields, and 300 goggles. She couldn’t believe she’d never heard of Tzu Chi before, and that a non-profit organization could respond so quickly after applying for assistance.

Riverside University Health System Medical Center is a large-scale teaching hospital in Riverside County, California. The hospital employs a total of 3,500 medical staff, and it’s also one of the few hospitals in Riverside County with pediatric intensive care units. Nicole revealed that after the statewide reopening, the number of confirmed cases has increased significantly. The rate of confirmed cases in the county has climbed from 4% to 10%, indicating that more residents are getting infected and seeking help. The medical center has also accepted many COVID-19 patients as the community’s main hospital. There are approximately 1,500 medical professionals on duty during the day, and 300 of them are part of their COVID-19 specialist team caring for patients with the new coronavirus. The pressure they feel while on duty is overwhelming.

Tzu Chi volunteers help Nicole load medical supplies onto the pickup truck. Photo by Mandy Lo.
Nicole drops off the donated PPE at Riverside University Hospital's medical supplies receiving dock. Photo by Nicole Peterson Orr.

After speaking with volunteers and learning about the vegan campaign, A Better Meal, A Better Earth, Nicole invited Tzu Chi volunteers to the hospital to participate in the project by bringing vegan lunch boxes. Through this, volunteers hoped to support the hard-working health professionals and encourage the hospital’s COVID-19 care team to learn more about the mission.

Delivering Delicious Vegan Meals

On the morning of July 9th, volunteers arrived early at TCMF’s office, working diligently to pack a total of 300 vegan lunch boxes with three options to choose from, and loaded them into four vehicles. Because the drive over to Riverside University Hospital is nearly a two-hour journey, volunteers promptly finished the preparation and packaging, and headed out in time to arrive at the hospital before noon.

When volunteers arrived at the hospital that afternoon, Linda Tra, a member of the administrative staff of the hospital, and Wendy Roop, a nursing administration secretary, came with their colleagues to the hospital’s entrance to welcome the Tzu Chi volunteers. Everyone was happy to see the selection of lunch boxes, as they knew that whether it was sushi, noodles, or rice choices, they were all made with love.

On July 9th, volunteers worked together to prepare 300 lunch boxes for Riverside University Hospital. Photo by Mandy Lo.
The hospital staff welcomed Tzu Chi volunteers at the entrance of the hospital, posing for a photo to promote “A Better Meal, A Better Earth”. Photo by Mandy Lo.

“You [Tzu Chi USA] not only donated a lot of PPE but now you’ve brought lunch for us from so far away,” expressed Wendy Roop. “I’m so moved, and I believe that the medical staff who gets these lunches will also be happy.” After volunteers shared some of the benefits of vegetarianism, Wendy, who’s not a vegetarian, told us that she would try to eat at least one vegetarian meal per day.

Tzu Chi volunteers brought the lunch boxes into a meeting room by the entrance of the hospital, and Linda notified each department in the hospital to pick up their lunch as soon as possible. She said she was very happy to receive such a thoughtful meal, and that they looked delicious.

Nicole, who had been in a meeting that morning, also received a lunch box with her staff, and took the time to thank Mary Keh and all the Tzu Chi volunteers for their love and care. Nicole shared that she frequently cooks vegetarian meals at home, and her family eats one or two vegetarian meals almost every day.

Volunteers Mary Keh (left) and Monique Kuo (right) speak with Wendy Roop (middle), regarding why Tzu Chi encourages vegetarianism. Photo by Mandy Lo.
Linda Tra (right), Admin staff of Riverside University Health System Foundation arranges for colleagues to receive the lunch donated by Tzu Chi USA Medical Foundation. Photo by Mandy Lo.

Encouraging Vegetarian Options

Ingrid Guo, a volunteer who primarily became familiar with Tzu Chi during the pandemic, had already heard about some of Tzu Chi’s relief activities when she was in China. After she arrived in the United States, she was busy with graduate school. This year, after witnessing Tzu Chi’s continuous donation of medical supplies, she was inspired to action, and she joined the Tzu Chi volunteers in their relief work. Ingrid is chiefly involved in fundraising and awareness for vegetarianism. She feels that promoting a vegetarian diet is a meaningful step in protecting both the planet and people’s health. It can also help boost knowledge regarding the many diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, as available evidence for COVID-19 also suggests that SARS-CoV-2 has a zoonotic source.

Monique Kuo, who contacted the medical institutions with the donations of vegetarian meals, said that TCMF’s A Better Meal A Better Earth campaign is easier said than done. She was still deeply grateful, however, for the help received from multiple hospitals and clinics. The donation of 300 vegan lunch boxes to Riverside University Hospital is just one delivery of vegetarian meals for A Better Meal A Better Earth. In the future, volunteers plan to continue reaching out to more institutions that Tzu Chi USA had previously donated supplies to.

Vegetarianism means disciplining ourselves, cherishing our own lives and respecting all living beings.

Suong Chang, a Tzu Chi volunteer who accompanied the vegetarian meal donation, believes that promoting the campaign is meaningful as well. For example, this donation of 300 meals to Riverside University Hospital was a good means of creating a cycle of love. The packing of 300 vegetarian meals involved coordination from volunteers to pick up food from three different vegetarian restaurants, then Tzu Chi mobilized three teams of volunteers to make the delivery in time. And finally, the hospital staff members were able to enjoy the meals, while also encouraging awareness for vegan and vegetarian lifestyle choices that benefit one’s health and Mother Earth.

Tzu Chi volunteers deliver vegan lunch boxes to the medical staff at Riverside University Hospital. Photo by Jennifer Chien.

Mary Keh, who leads TCMF’s A Better Meal A Better Earth campaign, explained that since its launch, it has become recognized by many medical professionals. Whenever volunteers brought the vegetarian meals to the hospitals, they always received positive responses. Indeed, Tzu Chi will continue caring for those working on the frontlines, and give them the support they need.

You can assist our volunteers as we aid struggling families all across the nation. We’re calling for 500k donors to help us raise $5 million in charitable donations. Every dollar counts, and in these challenging times, your selfless gift of $10 can help us deliver hope to those who can’t afford to feed their families, or provide essential PPE to individuals on the frontlines. If we can inspire 500,000 people to participate, we can reach $5,000,000 in relief!

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