Priceless: Ministry opens ‘pay-what-you-can’ student restaurant
EDINBURG – When you order lunch at BSM Global Blends, you aren’t presented with a bill for the total cost, but rather, with a question:
“What would you like to donate today?”
The small, pay-what-you-can café is run by volunteers from UTRGV’s Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) and serves a menu of sandwiches paired with an assortment of beverages.
Since its opening Sept. 18, BSM Global Blends caters strictly to university students, staff and faculty with a valid UTRGV ID, in a space provided by the Baptist Temple Church.
“We wanted to focus mainly on the UTRGV community because we wanted to make sure we could meet their needs,” said UTRGV junior Vivian Lopez, co-manager of BSM Global Blends. “We hope one day to open it up to the whole community.”
The donation-based restaurant, located at the intersection of Schunior Street and Sugar Road, is a place where customers can enjoy a meal like in any other restaurant, with only the moral obligation of paying what they are able to afford, Lopez said.
The decision to provide “pay-what-you-can” meals comes from a close understanding of the monetary hardships so many college students endure.
“It’s to have a place where students can go that they don’t have to stress out, where they can get a good meal without worrying about how much they have to pay or how much they have in the bank. It’s just a way to encourage students and let them know we’re here for them,” Lopez said.
BSM Global Blends does not have corporate contracts with businesses and relies solely on the generosity of patrons to fund their inventory.
“The people who give an extra amount make up for the students who can’t provide,” the engineering technology major said.
Students, like Mass Communication major Mia Alexis Morales, have had a consensus of gratitude for the food provided.
“You’re so used to paying a certain amount,” the UTRGV senior said, “so I feel a little awkward paying my own price. But it’s nice, especially for people who can’t afford food every day.”
Baptist Student Ministry
Lopez, a Harlingen native, works at the restaurant during her free time, but she also is an active student leader for BSM at UTRGV.
The student-led ministry is open for all students to join and offers outreach programs weekly to create a sense of community between students. Outreach includes free PB&J sandwiches, nail painting, coffee and conversation.
“Our huge outreach event is on Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. That’s our free lunch, open to students, faculty and staff,” Lopez said.
Robert Rueda, director of BSM at UTRGV for 15 years, said the most important part of outreach events is that students eat with dignity and see the love BSM has for them in a tangible way.
In fact, it’s that very thinking that inspired the philosophy behind BSM Global Blends.
“I’ve seen a student with four or five dollars and they go to a fast food restaurant and buy four fried things, so I decided to change that,” Rueda said. “If someone doesn’t have enough to eat a nutritious meal, they can come here.”
BSM Global Blends is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
For more information on monetary donations or volunteering, contact Lopez at email@example.com.