More than 1.6 million North Carolinians lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.
In 2013 the YMCA of Western North Carolina took steps to reduce local food insecurity by forming a department to distribute healthy food, teach good nutrition habits, and do cooking demonstrations in Buncombe, Henderson, and McDowell counties.
Since then the Y’s nutrition team has fed more than 28,000 families, with most food stored in a small space at the YMCA Youth Services building on Beaverdam Road in north Asheville.
“Each month we now distribute more than 16,000 pounds of fresh produce and serve more than 1,200 households across five counties in western North Carolina,” said Cory Jackson, director of nutrition services at the Y.
“There is tremendous need in our region, and we have to expand to meet it,” Jackson said. “Our new Nutrition Outreach Hub inside the downtown Asheville Y will allow us to serve more food to even more children and families more efficiently.”
The 2,000-square-foot space is home base for the Y’s three mobile units. The Y’s food markets are free and open to the public at dozens of locations each week, no questions asked. They feature fresh, healthy food, practical cooking demonstrations, and valuable nutrition information that’s easy to understand.
Generous donors and partnerships make the Y’s nutrition outreach work possible. The lead donors for the Nutrition Outreach Hub prefer to remain anonymous. Other major gifts came from the 2015 Biltmore Community Benefit Sponsors and Supporters, including Classic Event Rental, Colton Groome, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Mission Health, PGAV Destinations, Roberts & Stevens, Royal Cup Coffee, SunTrust, Wells Fargo, and Ken Wilson Ford.
The Y also works closely with organizations such as MANNA Food Bank, Mission Health Partners, Trader Joes, Aldi’s, and Mountain Food Produce to ensure nutritious food access across WNC.
In addition to its local food markets, the Y serves as a sponsoring organization for the federally funded, state-administered Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program. These programs provide well-balanced, nutritious meals to the youth of Buncombe, McDowell, and Henderson Counties year-round.
The Nutrition Outreach Hub also creates more volunteer opportunities for individuals, families, and corporate groups. Help is needed to sort food donations, set up and break down mobile markets, greet marketgoers, bag and weigh produce, and more. To sign up, go to ymcawnc.org/careers and click “volunteering.”