Englewood refugee starts food rescue to improve food justice, equity in the metro

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — To understand why Thai Nguyen is passionate about food security, you must first understand where she’s been.

“Food insecurity has affected my family growing up and it’s caused a pivotal moment in my life where I want to help people with food insecurity as well,” Nguyen said.

For Nguyen, this is part of her healing journey that started half a world away.

“I came to the states after being in four different refugee camps in Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia. In the refugee camps, we only had one bowl of food each day to eat,” Nguyen said. “So that’s what I lived with throughout my life.”

It’s part of the reason she started Kaizen Food Rescue two years ago — to get healthy, culturally relevant foods to Black, brown and indigenous people. Every day she goes to the Food Bank of the Rockies to get food and make that possible.

“They have a great fresh food center that gives us access to culturally responsive foods, not just in their agency portal system but also cherry picking through the pallets,” Nguyen said.

“At Food Bank of the Rockies, we’ve been working with Thai and Kaizen for over a year and a half. We’ve just been so impressed by how they’ve grown and how quickly and how they’ve responded to the huge need that we have in our community and the need for food assistance right now,” said Food Bank of the Rockies CEO Erin Pulling.

That need has been enormous.

“(We’ve see) a 3,026% increase overall,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen has met that need head on. Since the pandemic started, she’s partnered with 20 organizations and turned her weekly pantry into a daily emergency mobile food share with six locations.

“We see anywhere from 300 families to 500 families per day, depending on which location we’re at and we’re averaging 424 families,” Nguyen said.

“Thai is an inspiration to all of us at Food Bank of the Rockies with how she has responded to this tremendous increase in need and the answer is always yes,” Pulling said.

It’s a healing journey that’s come full circle.

Molly Hendrickson anchors Denver7 in the mornings from 4:30-7 a.m. She also features a different 7Everyday Hero each week on Denver7. Follow Molly on Facebook here and Twitter here. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.