Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
By March 19th, non-essential businesses in Los Angeles County were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With many Tzu Chi USA staff working from home at this point, a small team of volunteers packed and shipped foods for delivery to the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California, known as IDEPSCA.
They are a non-profit organization in LA that serves low-income families and low-immigrant workers, many of whom are residents committed to solving problems in their own communities. Tzu Chi volunteers rushed to deliver packages that would feed 50 of those families before 10 AM.
A Week’s Worth of Groceries
Every bag of Tzu Chi’s charity food packs contains dry goods like rice, corn, beans, cereals, plus canned fruits and vegetables. Additionally, fresh produce is included, too. With a single package able to last a family of four for one week, they can serve as a critical contribution for a family who is struggling with lost wages and more.
This comes at a time when many towns, cities, and counties hunker down on businesses and workplaces, and those who earn hourly wages face the short of the stick with reduced hours, no hours, or total layoffs.
A Partner in Serving Low-Income & Immigrant Communities
When it comes to serving specific populations, Tzu Chi USA constantly partners with local organizations, like IDEPSCA, located in downtown Los Angeles. For many years, they have focused on serving immigrant families in need. These families are particularly vulnerable because they naturally do not qualify for government assistance that other low-income families may be able to receive.
IDEPSCA CEO Maegan Ortiz shared what a lifeline Tzu Chi volunteers have given to their mission: “Tzu Chi has always been her for us, since day one… Thank you so much!”
Keeping a Social Distance While Doing Social Good
But, the problems that low-income families will face during the coronavirus crisis will be staggering. Already, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District, 71.4% of students in this second-largest school district in the United States come from low-income households, and approximately 290,000 children and adolescents rely on the school district to distribute nutritious breakfast and lunch every day.
While school lunches make a big difference, there is still much to do. Maegan explained that many of the families IDEPSCA serves usually have no savings or extra food to cushion them once their income decreases. Given current events, many of these families would begin to scramble for resources and help, which is exactly what makes Tzu Chi’s assistance so critical: it buys America’s most vulnerable families some time.
Once the foods were dropped off, IDEPSCA would begin reaching out to families to arrange pickups. Nevertheless, Tzu Chi and IDEPSCA volunteers were extremely vigilant with social distancing measures to help prevent infection, but also extremely dedicated to offering relief in times of crisis.