Courtesy: Audrey Tevino-Guerra | HEB

The feast must go on.

Although H-E-B’s Feast of Sharing has had to make changes to its annual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t mean the effort to feed thousands in local communities won’t continue. Traditionally, the Texas grocery chain would provide hot meals to families throughout the state with in-person dinner events in November and December; in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s become a tradition that local communities look forward to every holiday season.

In lieu of these gatherings, which are not advised by local health officials who are working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, H-E-B is providing monetary and food donations to local food banks and hunger relief agencies.

“To get meals to people in need in the safest way possible, we’re working closely with Texas food banks that includes Food Bank RGV with 18,000 holiday meals and other hunger relief agencies like Amigos Del Valle to help distribute and deliver meals throughout the holidays,” Audrey Trevino-Guerra of H-E-B Border Public Affairs said in an email Thursday.

“Due to ongoing public health concerns, this year’s H-E-B Feast of Sharing will not include large-scale, in-person dinner events and volunteer opportunities,” she continued. “Still, we are committed to celebrating the holidays with our communities and will donate more than 340,000 meals to food banks and hunger relief organizations in Texas and Mexico during November and December.”

H-E-B plans to make monetary and food donations to 18 Texas food banks and 40 hunger relief agencies. Their first distribution took place on Nov. 4 and 5 in which 9,000 meals were provided to families in need. The next distribution is expected to be on Nov. 20 in collaboration with Amigos Del Valle, which will provide meals to the elderly throughout the Valley.

They are also planning another distribution in December.

“We’re really grateful to have good corporate partners and sponsors in H-E-B not only in Weslaco but in the whole Valley and the whole state,” Weslaco Mayor David Suarez said Thursday. “Residents in Weslaco look forward to (Feast of Sharing) every year.”

Suarez said there are many people struggling, even more so because of the pandemic, and the annual event plays a big part in providing some relief. In 2018, more than 4,000 gathered at the St. Joan of Arc Parish in Weslaco for the free holiday meals.

“Residents are looking forward to hot meals— they’re counting on that,” Suarez said. “It’s very important to continue in this tradition. It’ll be different now because of the pandemic, but the citizens of Weslaco are fortunate. I applaud H-E-B. It means a lot even though it’s a different setting.”

Courtesy: Audrey Tevino-Guerra | HEB

H-E-B has been providing meals through its Feast of Sharing events since 1989, serving upwards of 250,000 meals annually.

“Obviously it’s very important,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said of the event’s impact on the local community.

Often held at the McAllen Convention Center, the Feast of Sharing has in the past drawn thousands.

“It’s a tradition that we always look forward to,” Darling added. “I certainly understand why we need to practice safety, but I think it’s a great kickoff to the holiday season. It shows how important everybody is in our city.”

Courtesy: Audrey Tevino-Guerra | HEB

The mayor said the event does much more than provide meals for the community, but offers unique volunteer opportunities for residents interested in serving the public.

“We let them use the events center for free, and it’s quite an operation if you’ve never been,” Darling said. “It’s a lot of opportunities for kids to volunteer. We get all the high school kids out for different nonprofits that help us out. It’s very much a community event.

“I’m sorry to see that we can’t do that this year, but it’s understandable.”

For more information about how to get a meal through Feast of Sharing, visit https://www.feedingtexas.org/get-help/ . To find local services and support, dial 2-1-1 or visit https://www.211texas.org/