Editor’s note: For our fall Nonprofit issue, we invited local nonprofit leaders to reflect on the successes and challenges of operating a 501(c)(3) in Western North Carolina.
Sonya Jones is the executive director of Caja Solidaria. The nonprofit works to ensure that everyone has access to food in Henderson and Transylvania counties.
Xpress: You became a nonprofit in 2022. What led to that decision?
Jones: We went from a mutual aid buying club to a nonprofit in 2022 to fill a gap in our community. A new program was coming available that allowed health insurance to pay healthy food service providers to provide food to people living with chronic health conditions. We wanted to make sure that Henderson County residents were being served by a Henderson County organization.
What have been the biggest challenges associated with becoming a nonprofit?
We provide a service that brings mobile markets with fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and whole grains directly to people’s homes. Our biggest challenge has been that people really love this service. We’ve been growing so rapidly that we went from zero to 200 households over the past year and a half. Our staff has grown from one person to 11 people. We had to get a commercial space recently. Every day we are learning to fly while building the airplane.
Tell us about your super food boxes and why this initiative is so important to your organization.
Super food boxes are what we call our mobile and pickup market experiences. The box is what people have after they’ve selected their fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins for about two meals per day per week. We love this program because we really like to trust that household members are in the best position to know what their families need for food. And we like to bring the best, highest-quality, mostly local, mostly organic foods to our members.
What new initiatives do you have planned for 2024?
We are really excited to start adding in some different classes and entrepreneurship opportunities in 2024. We have some very talented food processors among our membership. And we would love to be purchasing things like bread, tortillas and other value-added products from them to include in our markets.