Community members filled tables at the Brazos Center on Wednesday for the 26th annual Feast of Caring to support the Brazos Valley Food Bank.
Local celebrities donned aprons to serve the lunch, which consisted of rice, beans, Slovacek sausage, bread, tossed salad and dessert.
“It’s fun to see a friend of yours in an apron. It’s fun to have your boss serve you your food,” Brazos Valley Food Bank Executive Director Theresa Mangapora said. “But it’s also an easy way to support a cause in the middle of the day. It’s easy. That’s the whole goal is to be able to let people get involved in an easy way and see the impact.”
Mangapora described the lunch menu as “simple” when compared to the more elaborate dinners that take place in the community, but it is symbolic of what could be considered a feast for some families in the area, she said.
“It’s great that the community comes and raises the awareness, and I think that it allows people, particularly right before school starts, to be aware of the food scarcity that there is and the need for keeping that in our mind,” local attorney Daniel R. Hernandez said.
Though free to the public, representatives of the Brazos Valley Food Bank met people at a table to accept donations for the food bank. After raising $44,000 last year, Mangapora said, this year’s goal was $45,000. As of Wednesday evening, just under $43,000 had been raised, and about 1,200 people attended the event, which was a record turnout, she said.
“Your $1, your $10, your $100 goes a long way in ensuring that we’re there, that we’re the safety net,” she said. “Collectively, you can just see that all those people in that room together have made a big impact for us.”
The family-friendly event allows people to answer the question of how can they help, Mangapora said, because it can be daunting to think about the millions of people throughout the country who are hungry. One out of five households in the Brazos Valley do not have enough to eat.
One dollar can get six pounds of food or supply five meals for local families, Mangapora said, noting food is the greatest expense for the food pantry.
Though Feast of Caring was once the largest fundraiser for the organization, it now ranks third. The timing is crucial, though.
“We don’t get as many donations in the summertime,” she said. “People aren’t thinking about the food bank. They’re thinking about vacation, back to school, all of that. We are at the forefront of people’s mind at Thanksgiving and Christmas. So this is a way for me to say, ‘Hey, hey, hey, wait a second, we’re still here. Can you help us out?’ And they do.”
Diners and celebrity servers represented every sector of the community, including parents and children, city and county officials, educators, coaches, law enforcement officers and health professionals.
“I think that this event is tangible evidence that there is more good than bad,” said Hugo Ibarra, community outreach officer for the Bryan school district. “… It’s diverse, it’s giving, it’s generous. This is a powerful statement.”
College Station Police Chief Scott McCollum said he and the police department have always supported the food bank, and being a celebrity server is one way to show appreciation for what the organization does.
“They definitely fill the void,” he said, of the food bank’s role in serving the area. “We’ve got individuals in our community that need help, and I think this is one of the really unique things, and how we’re blessed in the Brazos Valley is we’re a community who cares and we try to fill those gaps where we see them.”
People can still donate to the Brazos Valley Food Bank by texting “FEAST” to 313131, by going online to www.bvfb.org or by mailing a check or money order made out to Brazos Valley Food Bank to P.O. Box 74, Bryan, TX 77806.