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Mobile kitchen brings 'Feast' to Victoria

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 20, 2010 at 6:20 a.m.

Jose Luis Martinez, left, and Pete Tovar take part of the 140 pounds of mixed vegetables out to serve the families in the main room of the Victoria Community Center. All the food for the H-E-B Feast of Sharing is prepared in a mobile kitchen inside a specialized trailer.

It takes a lot of drive to feed 5,000 mouths in one afternoon. Thankfully, the H-E-B Eddie Garcia mobile kitchen is equal to the task. As a 48-foot commercial-grade kitchen on wheels, the Eddie Garcia truck and a team of H-E-B staff and volunteers have spent the last two months traveling to 18 cities in Texas, preparing and serving thousands of holiday meals at the Feast of Sharing event.

"Really, this is just about giving back to the community, it's a way of H-E-B saying 'Thank you,'" H-E-B Public Affairs Manager Danny Flores said. "It's also part of our H-E-B Hunger Assistance Food Bank program. That's really how this started 22 years ago."

This year was the 19th consecutive year that the Eddie Garcia mobile kitchen brought Feast of Sharing to Victoria, and attendees agreed, it was the best feast yet.

"Every year, it gets better and more crowded," Erlinda Zamora, an eight-time Feast of Sharing event-goer, said. "It's fun for the children and the music is my favorite."

Zamora was one of more than 5,000 area residents to attend Feast of Sharing, enjoying a complementary holiday meal of ham, mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes and gravy, and apple pie - all prepared inside the mobile kitchen in oversized ovens, ranges and kettles.

Eddie Garcia, the mobile kitchen's namesake, was one of the first H-E-B partners to start Feast of Sharing more than two decades ago, and each year Feast of Sharing continues to grow.

In addition to serving a hot holiday meal to the Victoria public, Feast of Sharing included live entertainment from the Victoria College Jazz Combo and the Victoria Independent School District Air Force Jr. ROTC Drill Team. Arts and crafts were available throughout the event for children, as well as an opportunity to visit with Santa Claus. And at least 100 Feast of Sharing attendees were given complementary flu shots.

At the close of the event, which was scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m., approximately 1,250 pounds of ham, 250 pounds of glazed ham, 155 gallons of mashed potatoes, 90 gallons of green beans, 60 gallons of brown gravy, 450 pies, 5,000 dinner rolls, and soft drinks were served to more than 5,000 people.

After two months on the road together in the H-E-B Eddie Garcia mobile kitchen, cook Art Martinez and supply truck driver Alex Herrera said they'll miss their roadie family.

"We're together on the truck for two months, and we're like a big family," Martinez said. "I'll be sad when it's all over."

Martinez said he decided to get involved with the community outreach program with his father Jose Luis Martinez, a retired H-E-B employee of 36 years.

"It was a good way to give back and travel to different cities in Texas I'd never seen before," he said.

Victoria was the last stop of the year for the Eddie Garcia mobile kitchen.

"We're going to be back next year," Martinez said.



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