The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Office of Professional Education & Workforce Development and the UTRGV Baptist Student Ministries partnered to offer “pay what you can” bags of fresh produce at both the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses every Friday at 11 a.m. for the remainder of the semester, as a way to eliminate hunger and enhance access to healthy food during these difficult times
The bags, which are valued at $10 and $20, are part of the campus-based sustainable food system initiative supported by the UTRGV’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement, the Office for Sustainability, UTRGV Farm, local farmers and several student organizations that bring locally sourced fresh produce.
“I want everyone to feel supported and show the community and students that they’re not alone and that there’s people who worry about them and are praying for them and trying to help them so they can have the food they need,” Juan Lopez, associate director for BSM in Brownsville, said in a phone interview. “I think that what we do here is due to the love that we have and the faith in God and we have to love our neighbor and that’s what we are trying to do with this; to share God’s love with everyone through the necessities our community has during these times.”
On the Edinburg campus, they will be available for pick up at the BSM Global Blends Parking lot (1605 W. Schunior in Edinburg, across from UREC). On the Brownsville campus, the pickup location is at the Brownsville Research and Community Garden (BRCG) located behind the Casa Bella office at 2651 FJRM Ave.
Lopez said the program is aimed to help students, staff and faculty but community members can also purchase bags if they need to. He said he wants everyone to know everything happens for a reason and there are a lot of non-profit organizations such as this one who are doing the best they can to help those who need it.
Forrest Sparks, who initiated the research for the Food Initiative Program and is part of the Office for Sustainability, said amid the COVID-19 crisis UTRGV is trying to help the community with the hardships they may experience whether it is economic or health related.
“Beyond that, the university beforehand has been collaborating to create a sustainable food system and this just happened to be a good opportunity to get it kick started,” he said.
“We are in the midst of creating a sustainable food system where students can have more access to fresh grown produce and we are excited to see where that goes to.”