What’s new in food: YMCA unveils Nutrition Outreach Hub

NEW NUTRITION: YMCA of Western North Carolina held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 31 at the new Nutrition Outreach Hub in Woodfin. Photo courtesy of YMCA of WNC

The YMCA of Western North Carolina has opened a new base for the organization’s food outreach program. The Nutrition Outreach Hub on Riverside Drive in Woodfin is nearly triple the size of the previous nutrition center in the Asheville YMCA.

The YMCA food outreach team of WNC is responsible for providing 1.47 million pounds of fresh produce to a five-county area in the last decade, according to Aimee Kuelling, marketing and communications director at YMCA of WNC. The new facility will allow for an expansion of this effort and serve as a hub for the YMCA’s mobile food markets program, which delivers free produce around town to anyone who wants it, no questions asked.

Ashley Tee, YMCA of WNC’s executive director of community health, says rural WNC faces ongoing nutrition challenges, such as limited public transit, which can make accessing grocery stores difficult, and the ever-increasing cost of produce. “This was the inspiration to launch our program 10 years ago,” she says. “We saw the need to bring fresh produce to our neighbors at community hubs like libraries, community centers, schools, churches, etc. … We aim to ensure everyone has the food they need.”

Before the move, the outreach team had to reject larger food donations. “I am excited that the additional space allows us to accept more food donations,” says Tee. “Our food is mostly donated. We work closely with MANNA FoodBank, several grocery stores and local farmers. Additionally, our YMCA members are wonderful about donating extra vegetables from their gardens during the summer.”

The hub provides meal boxes to Managed Medicaid members through a statewide initiative called Healthy Opportunities Pilots, with food purchased mainly from local farmers, according to Tee. It will also house Cooking Matters Signature Courses, a series teaching low-income individuals and families about healthy and affordable cooking skills, and the Food Explorers after-school nutrition program. Food Explorers provides kids with a hands-on curriculum about the importance of food for emotional and physical health, encourages them to try new foods and builds the confidence to make healthy food choices.

The YMCA offers many avenues for volunteering, including sorting donated food, packing and delivering meal boxes, setting up mobile food markets, assisting with cooking classes and more.

The YMCA Nutrition Outreach Hub is at 2002 Riverside Drive, Woodfin. Learn more at avl.mx/ddn.

Pubcycle turns 10

The Amazing Pubcycle is celebrating its 10-year anniversary by offering free tours to local Asheville residents until Thursday, March 7.

The locally owned trolly-tour company’s owner says he wants to give back to the community responsible for its success. “The best part of Pubcycle tours is the ability to experience our amazing city from a unique perspective,” says Amazing Pubcycle owner Shawn Verbrugghe. “On a typical day, as we’re commuting though our city, it’s easy to glaze over the architecture and unique cultural aspects of artwork, and we often forget the feeling that people get when they first come to Asheville.”

Verbrugghe, who launched the company in late 2013, says he knows the Amazing Pubcycle has a reputation for being loud and slow. That just proves “how much fun people are having,” he says. He hopes locals get the chance to experience the Pubcycle for themselves. “Free tours for locals is just one way we’ve decided to give back to the community this year. At a time when people are saving more and spending less, we want to offer up some fun for free.”

The Amazing Pubcycle offers pedal-powered (and motor-assisted) tours that focus on various aspects of Asheville culture and nightlife, while providing experiences ranging from Asheville trivia to pub crawls. “This year we’ll offer Sunday morning spin class and karaoke tours,” says Verbrugghe. “You don’t have to drink to have a good time on the Pubcycle.” All tours are BYOB (beer or wine).

For more information, visit avl.mx/ddp. To book a free tour, use code localavl24 at checkout.

Whodunnit Dinner

Jimmy Ferraro will host a murder mystery dinner at The Main Event in Hendersonville on Saturday, Feb. 24, 6-8 p.m.

“The booze is flowing and the dancing begins … But suddenly … MURDER,” reads the handbill. The immersive production Marriage Is Murder engages the audience in a classic whodunnit. “It’s 1922 — think Great Gatsby — and the audience has to solve a murder,” says Ferraro. “Why did they do it? How did they do it? — so they are actively involved. The audience is the detective.” The characters Shifty Malone, a world-famous bootlegger, and Kicks Catavelli, the Charleston Queen, will be played by local actors from Ferraro’s Hendersonville-based production company, Murder Mystery for Hire.

The dinner consists of a four-course traditional Italian “mafia” meal and is included in the $85 ticket price. Catering for the event will be provided by Palmer’s at Cummings Cove. Guests are invited to don their zoot suits, flapper dresses and other 1920s attire.

The Main Event is at 125 S. Main St., Hendersonville. For more information, visit avl.mx/ddr.


Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has proclaimed Thursday, Feb. 15-Friday, March 15 as CSA Month and will hold a CSA fair on Friday, March 8, 3-5:30 p.m.

Community Supported Agriculture encompasses programs in which consumers can buy shares of a local farm’s harvest. Members receive a box of produce or other goods from the farm each week. With a wide array of local farms participating, there are programs to match a variety of consumer needs such as the size of the weekly share, growing practices of the farm and location.

“CSAs have a lot of advantages,” says Sarah Hart, ASAP’s communications and engagement director. “Some of the biggest are getting the best products, the chance to build community and challenging yourself to try new things and cook healthier meals. CSA customers are absolutely getting the freshest produce and often get first pick for popular seasonal items over farmers market customers. You really get to make a personal connection with the farmer who grows your food.”

ASAP, an organization that supports local farming and building healthy food communities, announced the honorary month in anticipation of the CSA fair, which will take place at the YWCA of Asheville. “The best time to sign up for a CSA is in February and early March,” Hart says. “Most farmers try to sell all their traditional spring and summer season CSA shares before the growing season starts. That way, they have that investment early on, and they can purchase what they need for the season.”

For those unable to attend the fair, ASAP has an online tool that compares CSAs throughout the Appalachian Grown region.

The YWCA is at 185 S. French Broad Ave. For more information visit avl.mx/b0y.

Cat Weirdos food drive 

Asheville Cat Weirdos is hosting a cat food drive Sunday, Feb. 25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at Pet Supermarket on Tunnel Road.

The nonprofit is a 100% donation-based service that helps cat owners experiencing unemployment, underemployment or medical issues maintain quality care for their cats. It provides assistance with emergency veterinary bills, spay and neuter vouchers and cat supplies. “There has definitely been a huge increase in people needing help both with cat supplies and vet bills post-COVID,” says Christina Dorsett, an ACW volunteer. “The goal of Asheville Cat Weirdos is to help people retain pet ownership during hardships.”

ACW’s last food drive collected almost 700 cans of wet food and almost 200 pounds of dry food, along with litter, toys and treats. Raffle tickets will be sold for $5 each or five for $20, and a winner will be drawn at the end of the day. Like prior food drives, this one will take place in coordination with the FurEver Friends adoption event. Anyone who buys a raffle ticket is encouraged to go inside and consider taking home a new cat.

Supplies collected at the food drive will be distributed at the organization’s bimonthly food pantry, which is open the second Tuesday of each month from 3-5 p.m., and on the fourth Saturday from noon-2 p.m, at the House of Black Cat Magic on Haywood Road. Each food pantry event helps an average of 20 families.

Pet Supermarket is at 244 Tunnel Road. For event information visit avl.mx/ddo.

Asheville Sandwich Co. closes

Asheville Sandwich Co. announced on its website and social media accounts that it is closing its West Asheville location after 12 years.

“We want to express our deepest gratitude to all of you — our loyal customers — for your unwavering support over the years,” the post reads. “It has been an incredible journey, and we are truly grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of your lives. Your patronage, kind words, and smiles have meant the world to us.”

The restaurant, owned by Cheri and Kevin Mullins, plans to reopen in a new location and cites nonrenewal of the lease as the reason for the closure. In the meantime, the company plans to continue its catering operation as well as offering group Trailbox lunches, sandwiches packed in durable containers with chips and a snack that are made for taking on hikes.

Customers are encouraged to redeem their gift cards before the closure. The company’s last day of operations in the current location will be Saturday, Feb. 24.

Asheville Sandwich Co. is at 794 Haywood Road. For more information or to order Trailbox lunches, visit avl.mx/ddq.


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