Bounty & Soul provides for increasing need while food and gas prices on the rise

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Bounty & Soul holds weekly markets in the parking lot at the old Bi-Lo.

Bounty & Soul is no stranger to hardship. But lately, the organization has to fight increasing prices during a time of significant need.

Since the pandemic, Ali Casparian, founder and executive director of Bounty & Soul, said the nonprofit continues to provide for double the amount of people, particularly as need grows due to rising gas and food prices.

"The need is increasing and the costs are increasing," she said. "We never came down after the pandemic."

Gas prices in particular have significantly impacted the organization. Bounty & Soul went from paying $450 a month for gas for the delivery truck to $1,300 a month, according to Casparian.

Currently, the nonprofit aims to raise $40,000 to go toward increasing costs. In addition to gas prices, Casparian said food prices have gone up. She estimated food costs have risen for Bounty & Soul by as much as 15%.

"I'll go to the grocery store and the same amount of food used to cost me $20 and now it's costing me $40," Casparian said. "It's affecting everybody and it's pushing more people into food insecurity than ever before."

At weekly markets in the Bi-Lo parking lot, Casparian has seen plenty of new faces due to increasing need. She said many of these people already live paycheck to paycheck, and any small increases such as gas prices create major challenges.

Bounty & Soul volunteers work at local Tierra Fertil Cooperative Farm.

Entering the summer months, Casparian said volunteers have also become more scarce. After being cooped up for two years during the pandemic, people have been wanting to travel, she said, and summer presents a good time to do so.

Bounty & Soul employees expected things to subside after the pandemic. Casparian said she and her staff have only seen need increase with no end in sight.

"I'm not a doom and gloom person at all," Casparian said. "But it's kind of the reality of what we're experiencing and what we're seeing."

Fortunately, farmers have entered the growing season. After seeing lower amounts of food during the winter, Casparian said the 46 local farmers and growers Bounty & Soul partners with have now been able to provide plenty of food.

Buying food from local producers helps Bounty & Soul provide locally sourced food to the community while boosting the food economy.

Bounty & Soul continued to offer fresh produce throughout the pandemic as community need increased.

"The one thing that has been so apparent out of this pandemic is really how the global food system is broken," Casparian said. "Whether it's supply chain issues or food shortages, that's all playing out."

Keeping the food in the community has always been a priority for Bounty & Soul. Casparian said not only providing food but also educating the community on where their food comes from helps locals connect over food.

In addition to providing food, Bounty & Soul aims to provide hope and positivity, particularly at markets and when interacting directly with the community.

"It's upbeat, it's uplifting, it's positive," Casparian said. "Maybe forget about your worries for that little amount of time and go home with some really yummy food."

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.