Abhijit Rege/The Highlander

On Apr. 2, 2022, the Riverside Free Clinic held its second annual Food Drive, where boxes of food and supplies were dealt, helping over 300 families in need of relief. The drive itself was held in a “drive-thru” format, in which those interested in obtaining the care packages provided can simply drive through and collect their needed supplies with very little hassle. Volunteers and partners of the event provided a variety of insight on their experiences and reasoning for participating in the food drive and their desire to help the community of the Inland Empire. ”All it takes is a good idea to get something started and to help,” explained Jose Garcia, Clinic Monitor and a 4th year Bioengineering major.

Fred Stover is one of the founders of the non-profit, OverFlow Farms, and currently serves as the President. Stover explained how he donated a variety of vegetables from his farm and non-profit, OverFlow Farms. This included over 800 cabbage, celery, lettuce and leeks that were grown and harvested on his farm, located on the grounds of the Riverside Community Church. He ultimately expressed how he found the experience to be rewarding in helping those who may not have access to these resources.

Abhijit Rege/The Highlander

Muhammad Afridi of the Sahaba Initiative explained how the event had been run well and explained that over 300 boxes of food and non-presishable items were prepared. Both Afridi and Stover hoped that the food drive would spread more awareness for their philanthropic mission. 

Islamic Relief USA also served as a partner for the event and are currently engaging in many activities related to Ramadan, including fasting, prayer, reflection and community service. As  such, it was paramount that the RFC reached out to the organization and they were able to garner support in providing food boxes for the event. Melika Rezanejad, of the Social Services Committee at the RFC, expressed how she was grateful for the partnerships and found it rewarding to see families attend and get the help they need. 

Fourth-year psychology major, Anna Tran, expressed that while it may be a sacrifice to take time off of her and others’ day, she finds the notion of helping the underprivileged to be ultimately rewarding. She explained the RFC worked with their partners to package the boxes and provided hygiene items as well. Tran aspires to be a hospital social worker and with her upcoming graduation, she expressed her gratitude for the clinic and their mission, as well as their partners, and hoped to say farewell to the RFC with the drive. She ultimately hopes that the food drive will impact the community through bringing more unity and awareness. “It’s super exciting to have diverse options of produce and progress is made with something as simple as putting food on the dinner table.” 

Zeyna Madanat and Sunny Virk, fourth year biology majors, furthered this notion, explaining that the food drive provided a feeling of hope and security for the underprivileged. “It makes them feel at peace not worrying about their next meal.”

Richard M. Wing, a retired Professor of Chemistry at UCR, and his wife Donna Wing served as the original advisors and supported the initial establishment of the Riverside Free Clinic. Currently serving as the Clinic Coordinators, they explained that the clinic’s purpose is to provide students an opportunity to use their skills and experiences to help others in the community and to provide a variety of valuable resources, from pharmaceutical to dental services. Donna Wing voiced her approval and appreciation for the food drive and was impressed by the organization of the event. 

David Lui, another professor, also attended the event in hopes of attaining food and supplies for his elderly neighbors who are unable to come out themselves. Lui’s situation exemplifies how there is no age limit for insecurity, affecting both the young and old in our community.

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Joowan Son, a 3rd year neuroscience major, described his experience at this 2nd annual drive and explained his desire to help the underserved. Son noted that, “food security and stability are often aspects that get overlooked by the community at large”. An unfortunate reality is that despite the Clinic’s efforts and support, oftentimes it can be limiting to connect with individuals in need. Fourth year Biology majors, Corey Paget, Shivam Patel and Valine Bebawy also related to this issue of connectivity and voiced their satisfaction with the turnout of the event. Despite an early morning setup and the potential to be overwhelmed, they found the volunteering experience to be inspiring due to the impact they had on their clinic and community. 

Personnel Manager and UCR Alum, Janette Chammas was excited to help with the event simply because she was, “happy to see a smile on the faces of those in need being helped,” and found the volunteering experience to be ultimately humbling for her. Fourth year Biology major, Ami Toor, noted that COVID-19 had a major impact on exacerbating many social issues occuring in the Inland and hoped to use this food drive to empower communities who must deal with this social inequity. 

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When asked about his reasoning for volunteering, third year biology major Anthony Nguyen commented that,  “The more I give, the more thankful I am for helping,” encapsulating the mindset held by the volunteers and partners of this philanthropic experience.

If you would like to learn more about the clinic or would like to volunteer, visit their website at: http://www.riversidefreeclinic.com/en/.