Bounty & Soul goes mobile to help those in need
On a warm fall Friday, a long line forms in the parking lot of Black Mountain Elementary, one of five sites where local non- profit Bounty & Soul distributes fresh produce to those in need. Most are residents of the Flat Creek community and enjoy fellowship as they wait for their turn to go inside the new Bounty & Soul mobile truck to fill their bags with needed food.
This day brings sweet potatoes, yellow squash, and greens collected from area farms, growers, grocers and MANNA FoodBank. Participants also enjoy a demonstration and lesson on the health benefits of eggplant and taste freshly prepared eggplant Parmesan.
There is no evidence of processed or artificial food on the truck today, or any day. UNC -Asheville student intern Hannah Scheulin, a Tennessee junior, mingles with participants in the line. A regular market volunteer as part of her health and wellness school internship, she enjoys catching up with the now familiar faces and being part of their lives.
Scheulin is interested in social work and sustainable agriculture, making Bounty and Soul a great volunteer fit. “I love getting to know the clients and hearing how much the market is benefits them; we are all growing together this project is really impactful,” she said.
She is confident her volunteer investment is actively making a difference and has learned much from her experience thus far, getting to assist in so many aspects of the Bounty and Soul programs. She is experiencing firsthand the group’s mission of instilling education, empowerment and community through the programs.
This fall the outreach by Bounty & Soul looks quite different from a year ago. The potential to reach food insecure residents in the greater Swannanoa Valley with access to healthy food has grown exponentially because of the new sixteen foot mobile truck.
In early 2015, a grant from the Episcopal Diocese of WNC made it possible to acquire the mobile truck, now used to “bring food to the people” as the organization’s mission states.
With the truck came the start of the mobile market program due to grants from Bi-Lo and the Community Foundation of WNC, each of which will continue through the end of this year. And finally, space was secured this year thanks to the Swannanoa Valley Medical Center, meeting administrative and food storage needs. These are just a few of the many partnerships now making Bounty and Soul such a successful young organization with a strong future ahead.
Two years ago, Bounty & Soul founder, Ali Casparian, was passionately involved at community Welcome Table held at St. James Episcopal Church. Each week she picked up fresh produce at Manna FoodBank and set up a table to distribute produce and offer a nutritional demonstration to lunch visitors. At her table, she connected with many food insecure guests.
Experiencing a sense of community around this common need for healthy food, and seeing the food needs firsthand, she did not want her efforts to end when the Welcome Table dissolved in the fall of 2013.
She desired sustainable meals for those food insecure, instead of just a weekly one.
With the help of St. James Episcopal Church as her fiscal sponsor, she drew others to her passion and her cause, wrote grants and developed a strong plan. Just a year later, in the spring of 2014, Bounty & Soul received it’s own 501-c3 status.
Casparian quickly realized the many barriers of transportation, fuel cost and beyond that prevent residents from reaching food a the original three “pop up” markets where food is set out on tables. In early 2015, after a long exhaustive search, a truck was secured partnering with Ryder; it was retrofitted and the first mobile market was launched in May of 2015.
Two weekly mobile markets were added to the schedule, resulting in five ongoing weekly markets.
Today Bounty & Soul gives away 6,000 pounds of fresh produce each week by operating in the greater Swannanoa Valley area. The markets serve seniors in a low income senior living facility; a non-profit daycare center; residents around St. James Episcopal Church, the Flat Creek Community, and Swannanoa community nearby to Creative Village Daycare Center.
Each market is designed to reach those most affected by food insecurity: children, seniors and those on fixed incomes. The goal is to provide food that contributes to good health and well-being, the same food that costs more at grocery stores.
Three ongoing programs now operate centered around the growing, preparation and distribution of food. “Produce to the People” is the mobile fresh market program.
Bounty & Soul can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828 419-0533.