How the Arlington community is fighting food insecurity this fall

Vikrant Singh, information systems graduate student, and Shaivya Bajpai, business analytics and marketing research graduate student, examine cans of food Jan. 17 during the Food Pantry Distribution hosted by Christian Campus Center and UTA Volunteers at the Christian Campus Center. 

Many people don’t think about food insecurity if they haven’t personally experienced it, but civil engineering junior Ashley Nguyenminh did.

She originally had the idea to organize a food drive last spring, when everyone left for spring break and threw away perfectly good food.

Food insecurity has been a silent issue in every community for as long as they’ve existed, and Arlington is no different. With 13.9% of Tarrant County residents estimated to be food insecure in 2018, according to Feeding America, people are still hungry despite America’s first-world status.

So Nguyenminh came up with a way to take advantage of items left in students’ dorms when they leave for Thanksgiving, and this semester is the perfect time to do it because no one’s coming back afterwards, she said.

Nguyenminh is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers at UTA and first recruited volunteers from within the organization.

That’s the reason so many engineering organizations are a part of the drive, Nguyenminh said. Along with ASCE, Engineers Without Borders and Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers are collaborating on the project, but anyone can donate.

Food drives are often overlooked because they’re stationary boxes people forget about, Nguyenminh said, but she urges students to consider donating this year.

“It’s really helpful to students who are affected by food insecurity, and that’s a lot more than you think,” she said.

Even if students can’t donate, they can spread the word about the food boxes if they want to help.

The food drive will take place in the form of a drop-off box due to COVID-19, Nguyenminh said. Students can donate unneeded food items Nov. 18-24 at the donation centers in the University Center, Central Library and Maverick Activities Center.

From donating food and time to just spreading the word, anyone can make a difference in the Arlington community, and Nguyenminh isn’t the only one taking advantage of the holiday season to do so.

Coral Simpkins-Mims, School of Social Work events coordinator, organized a Trunk-Or-Treat for Halloween last month, and the event doubled as a food box distribution opportunity for food-insecure students.

As a mother, Simpkins-Mims knows that extra little expenses add up, and sometimes a free box of healthy foods can make a real difference in people’s lives, she said.

The food given away was gathered by local organizations, and after realizing there was a need outside of students, Simpkins-Mims opened the event to anyone local who needed help.

Providing families in need with food boxes while also giving kids a fun and safe Halloween was exactly what she wanted to accomplish, she said, and seeing their smiling faces from their cars was her favorite memory of the night.

But food donations don’t have to be limited to one week of the year or only around a holiday.

At Mission Arlington, Metroplex executive director Tillie Burgin has been working for 34 years to provide meals to her community, and she helps thousands of people every day.

Burgin spent 10 years in South Korea as a foreign missionary and was inspired to volunteer in the Arlington community after returning.

“You can do missions in Korea. Why can’t you do missions in Arlington?” Burgin said.

UTA students are a great help, and Mission Arlington appreciates all its volunteers, Burgin said. They’ll take any help they can get, and sometimes when people come in for information or to visit, they get put straight to work.

“They said ‘We didn’t intend to come to work today.’ And I say, ‘Well, that’s kind of how we do it,’” Burgin said.

Students should feel free to stop by anytime because there’s always something to do, Burgin said.

People are needed to deliver food, move boxes or even answer phone calls, and whether you have a day or just a lunch break free, anyone’s welcome to make a difference in their community.

@Sam_Knowles00

features-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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