What kind of hot meals were you handing out?
AIG: First off, it was healthy food. And food that we are accustomed to, like chicken and rice. I am so grateful for the restaurants that offered hot meals, because many people didn’t have a water filter so they couldn’t cook [Editor’s note: In many counties, notices were issued that those who did have water shouldn’t consume it without filtering or boiling due to concerns about contamination]. I remember, when I was a recipient of meals, one that I really liked had chickpeas, mushrooms, and rice. The portions were also really generous.
CIA: People were so shocked that we were giving them food that had the meat and rice and the good essential things the body needs. At first they didn’t want to take it because they thought it wasn’t free. Once I said it was free they would take a good amount. My mom would describe the food to them. She is really into flavors.
AIG: I would say that the food is delicious and healthy. They would try it and say, “Wow!” Everything had great flavor.
CIA: They even told me, “There are usually not people helping our community out here, and the fact that you are doing it is amazing.”
Was it helpful to people that you could tell them, “We ate these meals just a few days ago, as we were in the exact same situation”?
CIA: Yeah, some people saw the food and were like, “No thank you.” But once we put the food down and told them it’s good, they were like, “If they like it, we are going to like it.”
What were some standouts from the meals that you all served?
AIG: There was a brisket with rice and spinach. I added soy sauce to the rice.
CIA: I don’t really like vegetables. But I ate all the vegetables on that plate!
AIG: I have tried brisket, but I haven’t tried it with spinach. I had tried all these things, just not together. It was familiar enough. I knew if that was how I felt, that is probably how other people felt.
CIA: I thought the food was going to be like the lunch from my school. But I was impressed by the flavor. When my mom first brought the meals home I thought she had cooked them.
What were some of the reactions from the community as you were distributing meals and water? Any particular stories that stand out?
AIG: I remember when we told them that everything was free, their expression would change. This is what impacted me the most. Seeing just how much they needed these things.
CIA: It was amazing to see how people would communicate with their neighbors to help each other. I wish the whole community in Texas and around the world would be like that—just trying to help each other out, no matter if it is a stranger.
What were the biggest challenges as you were volunteering?
AIG: A lot of people didn’t realize the food was already cooked, and they thought they would have to prepare it themselves. So some tried to turn it away, saying they didn’t have heat or water. And when we were giving out food, we always wore masks, we sanitized our hands, even the pens. But some people didn’t wear masks.
CIA: We were giving away food in a lot of apartment complexes, and the people who worked in the apartments, the managers, some of them didn’t like us coming to their buildings. They were like, “No don’t give water away, don’t give food away.” We were just trying to help.