Bounty & Soul receives new funding, plans for in-person market return

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
Bounty & Soul's Farmer Alliance program is being supported by a new $35,000 grant.

Local nonprofit Bounty & Soul has been awarded more funding and will return to in-person markets May 9.

For the second year in a row, the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina has awarded Bounty & Soul the Food and Farming Grant. This year’s award totals $35,000 and will be used to help support two of Bounty & Soul’s initiatives, Farmers Alliance and Produce to the People.

These programs have a focus of providing fresh produce to those who need it, purchased from local Western North Carolina farmers.

Bounty & Soul founder and executive director Ali Casparian said the Farmers Alliance program had 26 farm partners in 2021 and has since grown to 72 farm partners.  

“That program has dramatically expanded and will continue to expand,” Casparian said. “The pandemic really kind of broke open the fragility of our food system. The local farms are the future of our food. It’s important for this organization to invest in the sustainability and viability of the local food system.”

In addition to purchasing food from local farmers, Bounty & Soul also brings in groups of volunteers to help with farm activities.

Bounty & Soul provides healthy food to approximately 850 families per week.

Casparian said this new $35,000 grant will, in part, help expand this program.

“We’re excited about it,” Casparian said. “It is really the direction that we want to be steering more into is investing our resources and funding and energy into building out and creating economic viability.”

The grant will also help support the Produce to the People initiative. Originally organized as farmers markets-style events where participants could come pick up fresh produce, the event was forced to move into a drive-thru model during the pandemic.

More:Bounty & Soul founder on organization's origins, personal struggles

While pandemic restrictions have eased, Bounty & Soul has continued its drive-thru markets out of the old Bi-Lo parking lot in Black Mountain.

Now, after months of planning, Casparian said the organization is ready to return to in-person markets, starting with a soft launch on May 9.

Bounty & Soul hosts drive-thru markets in the old Bi-Lo parking lot in Black Mountain.

“We’re returning to our roots of how we used to set things up,” Casparian said. “The big difference is we used to set the markets up and see at most 100, maybe 120 people. Now we’re looking at possible 300, 400 people.”

Casparian said a lot of planning has gone into bringing the markets back to an in-person model. She called the planning process “extensive” and said the staff has done and “incredible” job. Casparian said she and one other staff member are the only remaining members from when the markets were originally in person, and new staff members and volunteers are excited to see how the markets work.

More:Bounty & Soul receives more than $200,000 in critical funding

The in-person markets will continue to operate in the old Bi-Lo parking lot and will feature music and activities for participants to enjoy while they select produce. Casparian said while getting the food to those who need it is the goal, it is also important to create a sense of community for participants.

“I’m confident that people will enjoy it,” Casparian said. “People could connect in the space, if people just want to come and get food, they can come and get good food. But what we’re trying to get back to is cultivating community and connection.”