In photos: UNC Asheville effort whips up 500 meals for national Food Day

PUMPKIN SEASON: Linnsey Baltierrez, front, and Jodi Gerberg mix up a batch of freshly chopped slaw. The fully vegan pumpkin chili meal also featured cornbread and apple crisp. Photos by Rachel Ingram

Jackets, car keys, water bottles and other personal belongings lined the hallway outside the teaching kitchen at UNC Asheville on Friday morning. The noise coming from the kitchen — clanging pots, a knife blade against a cutting board and laughter — spilled out of the room and into the hall, lingering above the piles of stashed items.

Inside, volunteers stood shoulder to shoulder, chatting while remaining intently focused on their task. The group gathered here had a common mission, and a lofty one at that. They resolved to prepare from scratch 500 nutritious meals in just 10 hours.

More than 60 volunteers from the Asheville community signed up to participate in the initiative on Friday, Oct. 23, which was organized by Amy Lanou, chair of UNCA’s health and wellness department, and Laura Sexton, registered dietitian and UNCA staff member.

The event celebrated national Food Day, an effort intended to raise awareness about healthy eating, food security and justice. The cook-a-thon, the culmination of a partnership between UNCA, Lenoir-Rhyne University and Asheville-based Food Connection, was a way of supporting that vision. “We all have a mission, personally and professionally, to feed our community,” Sexton says.

To that end, the food prepared during the cook-a-thon was delivered to Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry, Food Not Bombs and In Real Life at Asheville Middle School. The first batch of food, prepared between 8 and 11 a.m., was transported directly to Veterans Restoration Quarters and immediately served to hundreds of residents at lunch.

The organization serves 16,000 meals every week, says Eric Cox, ABCCM’s director of food service operations. “We would not be successful without donations or our volunteers,” he says.

Hands-on events like the cook-a-thon give community members the opportunity to directly see the impact of their efforts, says Food Connection co-founder Flori Pate. “Even if someone doesn’t necessarily have food to give, people want to get involved.”

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About Rachel Ingram
Rachel freelances for Mountain Xpress. She still can't believe she gets paid to meet new people and explore Western North Carolina on her days off from her "real" job as a direct care provider at a residential treatment center for youth (which she also thoroughly enjoys). To round it out, she also likes to drink wine, swim, backpack and cook, but not in that order.

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