For most of us, the big decision of he day is what to fix for supper. Should we cook at home or stop and pick up something on the way?

For far too many of our friends and neighbors, the only thought is whether they will find something to eat for supper. Many of them don't, and they go to bed hungry. They may be elderly. They may be children. They may be families struggling to make ends meet on what they earn, sometimes from two or three jobs.

Nationwide, more than 42 million people are food insecure, meaning they aren't sure where their next meal will come from. In the Brazos Valley, one in five people is food-insecure. One in five. Hard to believe. Even worse, more than half of the children in the area are food insecure and almost one-third of the residents 60 and older go hungry frequently.

Who are these people? They may be co-workers or neighbors. They may be friends or fellow church members. They could be classmates of your child. Don't assume they all live in "that" part of town. Even people living in what appears to be a nice house may be struggling: divorce, medical bills or other emergency can wipe out a family and its ability to have enough food.

Theresa Mangapora, the outstanding executive director of the Brazos Valley Food Bank, said, "Sometimes being employed does not mean you have escaped poverty. This means you can be employed and still be food insecure. In addition, fewer and fewer people have savings to weather time between jobs or an emergency expense.

Also, Mangapora said, "Slow and steady inflation has eroded buying power over the past decade."

In this area, 92 percent of the food insecure had to choose between paying for food or paying for medical care. Another 90 percent had to make the choice of food or utilities, while 85 percent faces the choice of food or transportation.

Do we turn our back on this food crisis right here at home? We hope not, but what can we do.

We are blessed in this are to have the Brazos Valley Food Bank, working diligently with 35 affiliates to end hunger in the Brazos Valley. Those affiliates include churches and nonprofit food pantries, emergency shelters, soup kitchens, as well as programs for youth, senior citizens and the disabled. They are located throughout the Brazos Valley.

Each year, the Brazos Valley Food Bank distributes nearly 7 million pounds of food through these partner agencies to some 50,000 unique individuals. That's a lot of food. Where does it come from:

Some of it is commodities distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A lot of it is donated by grocery stores such as H-E-B that has made giving to food banks across Texas a core corporate mission. And a lot is donated by generous local people at food drives large and small, including the amazing Food for Families hosted by KBTX every December.

In addition to food, generous people throughout the area give money, money that can be used to purchase needed foods that aren't donated and to keep the doors of the food bank open. The food bank can leverage each dollar donated into five dollars worth of food.

This week, there is an especially easy and fun way to donate. On Wednesday, the food bank will hold its 26th annual Feast of Caring from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Brazos Center, 3232 Briarcrest Drive in Bryan. A simple meal of rice and beans, salad, bread, dessert and iced tea or water is the traditional menu.

Longtime caterer Danny Morrison or Epicures lost his business in a tornado a while back, but he arranged for Chartwells to take his place.

The meal is free, but diners are encouraged to donate what they ordinarily spend on lunch -- or more, if possible. Last year, the Feast of Caring raised almost 44,000. Goal for this year is at least $45,000, which is well within the capability of this generous community.

Mangapora said, "Feast of Caring really is a Bryan-College Station tradition. Its simplicity is its charm -- the menu is the same for everyone and your food is served up for you. Your most difficult decision is deciding where to sit and how much to donate.

"In some ways, Feast of Caring is like a reunion -- an opportunity to catch up with former colleagues and friends, over good food and the satisfaction of knowing it is all for a good cause. It is simple, yet social and impactful -- all at the same time."

As good as the staff of the Brazos Food Bank is, it takes a lot of help putting on the Feast of Caring. Vernie and Nellie Bodden are top sponsors of the Feast, with Kroger and H-E-B pitching in as warehouse sponsors. Truck level sponsors include Bookman and Florence Peters, Davis & Davis Lawyers, Sanderson Farms, John and Carol Nichols, Citizens Bank, Ingram Wallis & Co. and an anonymous donor.

The food for the Feast is being donated by H-E-B, Kroger, Slovacek Sausage, Blue Bell Creameries -- reason enough to attend -- Scarmardo Food Service, Taylor Made Gluten Free Bakery and Coca-Cola Southwest.

KBTX will broadcast live from the event and KTEX will do a live remote.

Of course, we cannot forget all the volunteers, Mangapora said. "As with all events, volunteers are the lifeline. From the Brazos Valley Food Bank Board of Directors, to the celebrity servers to the Junior League of Bryan-College Station, Texas Transportation Institute, BTU and the Women's Club representatives, volunteers keep this event running smoothly."

Feast of Caring is one of the best events on the Bryan-College Station calendar each year. Fun, food, friendship -- all while helping our Brazos Valley Food Bank feed our hungry friends and neighbors.

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