Some neighborhood organizations are going above and beyond to ensure that all Asheville residents have a clear path to nourishment this holiday season. In addition to the free, hot meals provided to all members of the community by organizations such as the Haywood Street Congregation and 12 Baskets Café, Black Mountain-based Bounty and Soul will empower people to take charge of their health by offering them a helping of knowledge along with fresh food they can prepare themselves, all at no charge.
“We are a grassroots, nonprofit organization that is centered around healthy food, nutrition education and building community,” says Ali Casparian, founder and director of programs at Bounty & Soul. “Our distribution sites provide access to healthy nutritious food — mostly produce, but also other healthy food like whole grains, whole-grain breads, beans, rice and dairy. We have recipes available that are healthy and easy and budget-friendly, and we also offer health and wellness classes free of charge.”
The three upcoming holiday markets will operate much like Bounty and Soul’s established weekly markets, but with a bit of festive flair. Visitors can expect a guest cooking demonstration and samples of decadent dark chocolate flourless cake prepared with healthy, low-glycemic ingredients.
Accompanying the boxes of assorted produce guests receive will be recipes for dishes such as orange quinoa stuffing, warm apple-lentil salad, acorn squash stuffed with chard and white beans, roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon-garlic dipping sauce, venison-sweet potato chili, peppermint dark chocolate mousse and pumpkin-oatmeal cookies. Samples of some of these items may be offered at each market as well.
“Whenever somebody new comes, we welcome them, we give them a market schedule and let them know of our three open markets every week. We ask them a little bit about their family and make them feel welcome,” says Karla Gardner, director of operations at Bounty & Soul. Visitors are provided with a box and then proceed to make their way through the market, filling their box with fresh food to feed their family for the days ahead.
During the week leading up to Christmas, Bounty & Soul will hold markets in the Black Mountain and Swannanoa area on Tuesday, Dec. 20, Wednesday, Dec. 21, and Thursday, Dec. 22. The Dec. 20 market will feature the last installment of the organization’s Cravings health and wellness class series. Guest speaker Valarie Holbert will offer tools for managing, understanding and reducing cravings through practices including mindfulness, breathing and Emotional Freedom Techniques tapping therapy.
Everyone in the community is invited to participate in the markets. “We are a welcoming, inclusive organization, so we only require that you provide us with how many people are in your household [in order to participate] — no other requirements are necessary,” says Casparian. “I think people keep coming back, too, because it becomes less about the food and more about the community and seeing people and experiencing what they experience when they’re there.”
Bounty & Soul’s offerings are available to everyone. “If there is anyone from the community that knows someone that they want to help, then they are welcome to come to these markets on their behalf,” says Gardener.
Growers and community garden partners working with Bounty & Soul include Dr. John Wilson Community Garden, Barefoot Farm, The Lord’s Acre, New Sprout Organic Farms, Green Rows Hydro-Farm and Swannanoa Community Garden.