The idea for a 24/7 food pantry first popped into Tri Trinh's head when he noticed residents starting to put canned goods inside little neighborhood libraries instead of books.
The California native who now calls DC home knows all too well how crippling the pandemic can be for people trying to make ends meet. His Hot Pink Photo Booth business took a huge hit when the economy shut down back in March.
It's a hard time for everybody, including myself," Trinh said. "I'm in a tough situation too. I'm unemployed, I really have to budget, and I don't know when my next gig's going to be.
But the sudden loss of income hasn't stopped him from finding creative ways in the age of COVID to help his neighbors in need.
His winter coat drive earlier this month wildly exceeded his expectations and it appears his 24/7 food pantry looks to be just as successful.
At the end of the day, we are all humans and we have to watch out for each other," Trinh says. "In this pandemic, we have to take care of our neighbors.
So Trinh teamed up with Jennie Light, who owns the Bluebird Sky Yoga studio in Brookland. Since COVID-19 has kept the studio's doors closed, Light agreed to let Trinh use the area in front of the studio for his pop-up pantry, and empty rooms inside the studio to store excess goods.
Trinh, with the help of some friends, got to work right away, setting up shelves full of food items, and covering it with a plastic tent to protect it from the elements. He stops by several times per day to keep the shelves stocked.
What sets the food pantry apart, Trinh says, is that it's open 24/7 and open to all. He said that other food giveaways are only open during certain hours, and he heard of some even turning folks away for not having proper identification.
"That really bugged me," Trinh said. "What's the point of giving away stuff if you're going to turn them away?"
He calls his pantry a "judgment-free zone."
It's a very simple set-up," he said. "You don't sign-in or talk to anybody. You just take what you need.
Jennie Light jumped at the opportunity when Trinh came to her asking to use her yoga studio for the pantry.
"I was really excited when Tri came forward with this idea," LIght said. "So many people want to give back and help the community right now."
Trinh says that since posting photos on Instagram announcing the opening of the pantry, and creating an Amazon wish list for folks who want to send donations, the whole project just "blew up."
"I'm getting food from all over the country," he said. "It's amazing. Every day I'm getting unbelievable amounts of shipments."
Trinh says he is overwhelmed by the kindness and support from his community and around the country.
"It's just so heartwarming," he said. "I feel like I'm fulfilling a purpose, which really feels good,"
How can you get involved?
The food pantry is located in front of Bluebird Sky Yoga: 3101 12th Street, NE, Washington, DC, 20017
- The food pantry is open 24/7. Donations of non-perishable food items ONLY can be delivered at any time.
- Canned goods and food that's ready-to-eat is in high demand.
- Kid-friendly items in high demand.
- Applesauce is popular and goes really fast.
You can also make a donation through Trinh's Amazon wish list by clicking here.