Driving into Action: Riverside Free Clinic hosts fourth annual food drive

Driving into Action: Riverside Free Clinic hosts fourth annual food drive

PC: Mata Elangovan / The Highlander Yaser Naji, commented on his experience as a volunteer in the healthcare system and the benefits he’s obtained from working within it. “Working with a variety of different organizations, I really noticed how public health and healthcare really go hand in hand … I’ve noticed how important it is to have exposure to [the healthcare] field in order to understand the different disparities that [need] to be addressed here and [in] Riverside County.

Returning for their fourth annual food drive, the Riverside Free Clinic’s (RFC) Social Services Committee distributed over 400 basic needs packages, including 222 food bags and 231 hygiene kits to the Riverside community on Saturday, May 25 at Bordwell Park. This year, the event was hosted from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and featured a partnership with Sahaba Initiative and OverFlow Farms. The drive-through format allowed those who were interested in obtaining packages to simply enter the line, fill out a sign-in form and receive their packages. 

Yaser Naji, a second-year biochemistry major and incoming officer of the social services committee at RFC, shared that the purpose of the event is to “alleviate some of the [health disparities and] some of those struggles that are faced by families going through socio-economic difficulties.”

This year, the event organizers explained that they had reached out to over 100 donors in a collective team effort, and got a few responses back. Their main partners for this year were Sahaba Initiative, “who had around 200 food bags to be distributed.” Other partnerships included Crossword Church, The Shifa Society at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) HIV testing and Uplift Charity.

Board Secretary for the Board of Trustees for Sahaba Initiative, Mohammed Kuko, shared details about Sahaba’s involvement in the event. Sahaba Initiatives was founded over a decade ago with the mission “to transform communities and support families in crisis through addressing core areas in housing, hunger, economic stability, and well-being.” Kuko notes they also work on other community needs, “battling food insecurity, helping the community out there.”The annual food drive hosted by RFC is one of many events that Sahaba does in partnership with the city of Riverside where they provide food from their food pantry.

Sahaba Initiatives has partnered with RFC since the inception of the Annual Food Drive. Kuko expressed, “We’re just really thankful to be partnered with the Riverside Free Health Clinic for this event and we hope to do it for many more years [to come].”

PC: Mata Elangovan / The Highlander According to the Riverside Free Clinic’s Mission Statement, they are “a nonprofit organization that provides free interdisciplinary health and wellness care to the underserved population of the Inland Empire while also providing an effective training environment for future healthcare professionals and leaders dedicated to serving the Inland Empire.” By doing so, they hope to support “the elimination of health disparities for the Inland Empire’s underserved through quality health and wellness care.”

As the event saw more drivers entering the lot and receiving aid from RFC, Marina Nassar, a fourth-year biology major with a minor in psychology and the Personnel Manager for RFC explained the importance of aiding those in need in a city like Riverside. She explained how “Riverside is a food desert, and it’s also extremely underserved. We have a lot of underserved communities within the Inland Empire and Riverside specifically … So we decided to put together these food bags and hygiene kits, just to ensure that we’re taking care of the public health situation in Riverside, but also ensuring that we’re building that bridge and sealing the gap of food insecurity in Riverside.”

For future projects, Naji hopes that change will accelerate through RFC: “We’ll continue to have innovative ideas and not just stick to our annual food drives. [Coming] up with new ideas, new projects, to help address the health disparities here in the Inland Empire. I hope quarter by quarter we keep improving, keep adding more services, [and] expanding our services to cater [to] more patients. And hopefully, as a result of that, we can actually see a future where health disparities are addressed and alleviated.”

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