Terry Scholars Cook Up Way To Help Restaurants, Feed Hospital Workers
Students' Nonprofit Buys Meals, Donates Them to Hospitals Hit by COVID-19

Two students at The University of Texas at Dallas have established a nonprofit organization whose mission is to purchase meals from local restaurants and donate and deliver them to hospital personnel in cities most impacted by COVID-19.

UT Dallas students Jeannie Nghiem and Ramzi Taim founded COOKED-19.

Neuroscience senior Jeannie Nghiem and healthcare studies senior Ramzi Taim, who are both Terry Scholars, founded the organization COOKED-19 to help those who are on the front lines of battling the pandemic.

Their efforts have been backed by a grant from RevTech Ventures, a retail technology venture capital firm in Dallas, and a $1,000 grant from the Victor L. Worsfold Grant Program Fund, which was established by UT Dallas’ Eugene McDermott Scholars Program Alumni Association to support student-led service activities providing creative solutions to community problems.

Both students have a heart for those in medical professions. Nghiem, who volunteered for several years at the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, said she knows firsthand the daily stress medical personnel endure. She hopes to have a medical career of her own and work with underrepresented populations.

“I know how hard nurses and doctors work, even without a pandemic. These are people who are struggling to get us back to normal and risking their own lives to do so. We wanted to support those who work so hard to support us,” Nghiem said.

Taim, who would like to work in public health one day, researched everything needed to set up a nonprofit organization. Then he and Nghiem helped develop partnerships with local restaurants that would provide meals in bulk and recruited volunteers to help deliver the meals.

“It’s really been amazing to see so much community support,” Taim said.

The organization works locally with Campus Oven, a company started by four UT Dallas students to offer healthy, affordable and convenient meals sourced fresh and prepared by expert chefs. Closed due to the pandemic, the company is now delivering meals to health care workers at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

“I know how hard nurses and doctors work, even without a pandemic. These are people who are struggling to get us back to normal and risking their own lives to do so. We wanted to support those who work so hard to support us.”

Jeannie Nghiem, who founded COOKED-19 with fellow UT Dallas student Ramzi Taim

Nghiem and Taim also negotiated a price for bulk orders of meals with the restaurant Grease Monkey in Arlington. They delivered their first meals in mid-April to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

“We are trying to not only provide food for the health care workers working nonstop to fight COVID-19, but also provide some financial help to businesses that are already being hurt by the current economic downturn,” Nghiem said.

Jeannie Nghiem and Ramzi Taim worked with Grease Monkey on a bulk order of meals that were donated to staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

COOKED-19 provides masks and gloves for all its volunteers and pays fees for each to complete requirements for a Texas food handler certificate.

Nghiem and Taim want to use their network of Terry Scholars to develop partnerships with restaurants and volunteers who will deliver meals to other Texas hospitals in areas that have been greatly affected by COVID-19.

The Terry Foundation’s mission is to improve and develop the state of Texas by helping Texas students, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, attend the state’s finest public universities. Since 2006, the Terry Foundation has provided more than $19 million to the University’s 340 scholars, who are selected for scholastic achievement, leadership and service.

Sheila Kelly, director of the Terry Scholars program at UT Dallas, said Nghiem and Taim exemplify the Terry Foundation’s vision of giving back to the community. Other Terry Scholars are making masks for a hospice in Dallas and a shelter in San Antonio, she added.

“Terry Scholars giving back to the community is what Howard and Nancy Terry asked when they began this scholarship 30-plus years ago, and Jeannie and Ramzi have definitely lived up to that,” Kelly said. “With their combination of business acumen and medical volunteering, these two rising seniors sprang into action over spring break and have mobilized other Terry Scholars for similar projects in San Antonio and Houston.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].