The many excellent organizations that serve this area hold a variety of fundraisers throughout the year and this generous community responds enthusiastically.
All of these nonprofits do amazing work and deserve our support, but none more than the Brazos Valley Food Bank. For nearly 40 years, the food bank has had one mission: to eliminate hunger in the Brazos Valley.
Fortunately, most of us in the area have more than enough to eat. Sadly, though, for about one in five of us, our next meal is never a sure thing. These friends and neighbors are “food insecure”; most nights they go to bed not knowing what they will eat tomorrow, or if they will.
These people are not “them”, strangers that we can ignore. No, they are our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our church family, fellow students at our children’s schools. We may know them well and not realize how much it hurts them.
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They can be the family of the divorce or the loss of an economic breadwinner. They may be the family of a sick child, having to make decisions between buying food or the medicine he needs. Perhaps there has been a job loss.
No matter. They need our help, and through the Brazos Valley Food Bank, we can extend that help.
The food bank accepts donated food, raised through a series of food drives large and small. It also accepts monetary donations, which allow it to purchase the food it needs to provide well-balanced meals through a network of pantries and other groups.
Unfortunately, like all of us, the Brazos Valley Food Bank has been hit hard by inflation. While once, not long ago, you could stretch every donated dollar to provide $5 worth of food, the rising cost of everything has reduced that ability considerably. Therefore, more money is needed to buy the same amount of food.
And of course, more families are struggling to keep up with inflation, and more of them are turning to the food bank for help.
Theresa Mangapora, executive director of the food bank, said the COVID pandemic and its aftermath have changed the way the food bank operates.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, the need skyrocketed, while the flow of donated food and access to food for purchase was reduced. It was a very difficult year to manage, pivot and modify services,” said Mangapora.
“Last fall, when some pandemic safety net programs were discontinued, the need increased again.
“However, this spring with the start of inflation and now with another surge of COVID-19, the need is on the rise again.
“The Brazos Valley Food Bank is seeing more needs than the same time last year, up 30%, and more needs starting this spring, up 10%.”
There is an easy way to help this week. On Wednesday from 11 am to 1 pm, the food bank will host its 29th Annual Fiesta of Caring at the Brazos Center.
The party is one of the funniest events that take place every year. People from all walks of life gather for a free meal of beans, rice, sausage, salad, dessert, and iced tea, served by local “celebrities.”
People who don’t normally interact with each other happily sit together and share common experiences, hopes, and dreams. It is an amazing event.
Yes, the food is free, but attendees are asked to donate at least as much as they would have spent eating at one of our many fine dining restaurants.
Last year, the Feast of Caring raised $57,000, and Mangapora said this year’s goal is to top that amount. Surely this generous community will do just that. Mangapora said, “The Fiesta del Amor is so important to the Brazos Valley Food Bank for a number of reasons:
“The beans and rice menu is symbolic. A relatively healthy and hearty meal may be considered parochial by most of us, but for people facing hunger, this meal can be a staple, even a feast.
“When the public partakes in this meal, it is in solidarity with their neighbors facing hunger. Awareness is key to making the Brazos Valley hunger free.
“The party shows the generosity of many local food vendors. Most of the ingredients for the party are donated, which means more donated dollars go directly to the mission.”
In addition to food and money, the Brazos Valley Food Bank needs helpers. Mangapora said, “Our volunteering has not yet reached pre-pandemic volunteer hours, nor the volume of donated food.” If you’d like to help out a few hours a week, visit www.bvfb.org/get-involved for more information.
Plan to attend the Fiesta de la Solidaridad between 11 am and 1 pm on Wednesday at the Brazos Center. You’ll have a good feast, be able to visit with other area residents, and help the Brazos Valley Food Bank in its critical mission of feeding our hungry neighbors and friends.