Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, 17.1% of Travis County residents were living with food insecurity, an issue only exacerbated by the economic instability following COVID-19, according to Derrick Chubbs, the CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank.
As the pandemic progressed, Isabella Garcia and Hillary Xu, juniors at Leander ISD’s Vandegrift High School, said they could not stand by aimlessly while the community around them struggled.
“We can’t just stand by in the comforts of our home and watch as the days go by, with more people worldwide dying, with more Americans losing their jobs, and with some of our neighbors suddenly needing our help,” Xu wrote in an email to Community impact Newspaper.
The pair organized online initiative Operation Food Bank, providing the community with a direct virtual donation link to the Central Texas Food Bank, the largest hunger relief charity in Central Texas.
Chubbs previously told Community Impact Newspaper that the organization experienced an almost immediate increase in need as the coronavirus hit Texas. With schools and businesses closed nationwide, the number of food-insecure individuals is expected to increase by 17.1 million, according to The Feeding America network.
Garcia and Xu said they feared how this national and global pandemic would affect their own neighbors.
“We decided a food drive would be our way of contributing back to our community,” Xu said. “Since we can’t do it in person right now we chose to go virtual.”
The initiative launched May 10, and donations are currently approaching $70, but Xu and Garcia have set a lofty goal for Operation Food Bank.
“Our goal is set at $3,000 right now,” Garcia said. “We don't know how long we're going to be in this situation, so I thought the larger the goal the better.”
In an effort to increase exposure, the pair recently established social media accounts and are working to grow a larger follower base. Xu and Garcia have also arranged for an easy way to make donations, developing two QR codes, one directly linking to the donation page and one linking to an infographic on nationwide hunger statistics.
Those interested in making donations can scan the code using their smartphone’s camera.
"We just hope whatever money we raise will help someone, somewhat in the community,” Xu said.
According to Xu and Garcia, the community is all working together to help one another.
More information on Operation Food Bank can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.