Two Vandegrift High School students work to alleviate food insecurity in their community

Two Steiner Ranch-area teens launched Operation Food Bank, a charitable initiative to alleviate hunger insecurity. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Two Steiner Ranch-area teens launched Operation Food Bank, a charitable initiative to alleviate hunger insecurity. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Two Steiner Ranch-area teens launched Operation Food Bank, a charitable initiative to alleviate hunger insecurity. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Image description
The pair developed a QR code directly linking to Operation Food Bank's donation page. (Courtesy Hillary Xu)

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.
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.


Reports surfaced Feb. 22 of dogs falling ill after swimming in Lake Travis. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Blue-green algae toxic to animals found in Hudson Bend area of Lake Travis

Solid organic material was taken for testing from the edge of Travis Landing located on the east side of Hudson Bend. Those samples indicated the presence of algae and decaying algae containing cyanotoxin, which is fatal to dogs and other animals.

A new Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine could help expand vaccination availability in Travis County, according to local health officials. (Courtesy Pexels)
Johnson & Johnson vaccine could mean additional supply, easier distribution rollout in Travis County

If approved, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be a valuable weapon against the ongoing pandemic, according to local health officials.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

A tree's branches fell on a car in North Austin in the midst of Winter Storm Uri in February. With downed tree limbs and burst water lines causing property damage across Austin, the city has directed additional funds into programs to help some homeowners with emergency home repairs. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Still in crisis mode, Austin City Council initiates recovery following winter storm

With 200 to 400 apartment and condo complexes in Austin still without water, City Council is aiming to direct aid and relieve some of the financial burden felt by residents following the devastating winter storms.

Pet owners are advised to keep their dogs out of Lake Travis. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
UPDATE: Lake Travis water samples show no signs of toxic algae; dog owners still urged to keep pets out of water

An initial test of water samples from Lake Travis showed no signs of cyanotoxin or blue-green algae, a bacteria that is poisonous when consumed by dogs.

H-E-B will open a new location in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Southwest Austin in August. (Rendering courtesy H-E-B)
H-E-B to open in Oak Hill in Aug.; comedy club coming to The Domain and more news from February

Read business and community news from the past month from Central Texas.

Rollingwood City Council met Feb. 24 to discuss how Winter Storm Uri impacted the city's water system. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
Rollingwood officials evaluate wastewater contractor following historic winter storm

“We were on the cusp of making a decision as to whether or not to cut off water service to our entire city or, alternatively, overflow our lift stations and flow raw sewage into direct channels into Lady Bird Lake,” Mayor Michael Dyson said during a Feb. 24 City Council meeting.

Jo's Coffee opened a North Austin location in January. (Courtesy Chad Wadsworth)
Jo's Coffee opens in Central Austin; new restaurant coming to Georgetown Square and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

Photo of a snowy residential street
'Bad data is worse than no data': Austin health officials unsure how storm affected coronavirus spread

Weekly testing and hospitalization averages will not be updated by Austin Public Health until Feb. 27.