Together, with other community volunteers, UT Health San Antonio students packed 27,595 lbs of food (exceeding the goal of 25,000 lbs) and 2276 meals for those in need in 16 counties in Southwest Texas.
The students were volunteering at the Community Service Day organized by the Office of Student Life.
“The students did a great job and seemed to enjoy the event as well,” said LeKeisha Johnson, director of the Office of Student Life.”
The event was also an interprofessional student event which allowed students from each of the five schools on campus the opportunity to mingle.
Pooja Yadav, a second year graduate student in the Cancer Biology discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program said that she enjoyed volunteering at the event.
“The best part was knowing that what we are doing will directly benefit those in need, and access to food being the most basic human right; it felt great to contribute to the endeavor and motto of the food bank—Fighting hunger, feeding hope,” she said. “We were all working together, volunteers from different places for one common goal.”
Yadav said that this was also her first experience seeing poverty in the United States.
“In my home country, India, I see people begging for food but I had not been to a food bank before so I definitely wanted to do a little bit from my side for the Food Bank,” she said. “Food is a basic necessity.”
During the event, Yadav was assigned the job of inspecting the food items that were donated to the food bank by various organizations.
“We looked for expiration dates, condition of packets—if they were sealed,” she said. “We got to know that a lot of consumable food is wasted in the United States. We sorted and then packed the food items in different categories like condiments, fruits, beverages, snacks, etc.”
Shih-Bo Huang who also volunteered at the event said by attending the event, he realized how many people in San Antonio are still suffering from hunger.
“Hunger is a silent pandemic, it not only affects people’s quality of life but also causes an increase in disease cases including cancer. In addition, we also waste a ton of safe, edible food every year so helping out people of hunger can benefit our world and reduce the burden for everyone as well, said Huang, who is also a second year student in the Cancer Biology discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program.
Vadav said she especially touched by a personal story that was shared by a volunteer at the Food Bank.
“A grandmother asked for infant food which she needed to feed her grandchild, as her daughter was in prison…when the volunteer gave her the food, the lady fell to tears,” she said. “The food bank provided food to that infant and so many other families, homeless, and poor people.”
Yadav believes that volunteering is especially important for students.
“Many times, we want to do something for the community but we just stop at thinking about the problem we see,” she said. “These volunteering opportunities provides a systematic and organized way to allow us to contribute to the community.”
Huang said that the event really made him think about his research as a cancer biologist.
“As a Ph.D. student, I study and try to find the cure for disease. Saving people from hunger or poverty can also improve life quality and reduce disease risk as well.”