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YMCA of WNC Combats Food Insecurity

Make food access a priority during National Nutrition Month

Nutrition Outreach program participants receive nutritious food at a YMCA Healthy Living Mobile Market. Asheville, N.C., March 20, 2019 – The YMCA of Western North Carolina celebrates National Nutrition Month every day by providing access to free, healthy food to thousands of families in Western North Carolina.

“It means I don’t have to worry about our fridge being empty when we run out of money for the week. It is like an extra security blanket,” said Kara Girard, a participant in the YMCA’s nutrition outreach program. More than 1.6 million North Carolinians lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. The Y is working hard to improve this social determinant of health and to increase food security in the region. 

“For instance, we have partnered with several clinics and medical professionals that are now screening for food insecurity and referring those patients that screen ‘positive’ to our mobile produce markets and nutrition education,” said Cory Jackson, nutrition and wellness director at the YMCA of WNC.

The Y operates 32 Healthy Living Mobile Market sites each month in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, and McDowell counties. There’s no charge to participate, and the Y doesn’t question anyone about their need. Participants can help themselves to fresh, healthy produce that’s donated by local grocery stores, restaurants, and other partners. Occasionally meat products such as frozen turkey and fresh venison are also available.

“A lot of elderly people, they’re on a fixed income and only get $15 for food stamps and they need these veggies,” said program participant Deborah Patton.   The Y also provides free Saturday meals to anyone age 18 and under at the Ferguson Family Y in Candler and the Corpening Memorial Y in Marion.  “The Y is known for doing so many good things for local communities. I wasn’t surprised because I was like, of course it’s the Y,” said Girard.

As a nonprofit, the Y would not be able to fulfill this mission without generous funding partners and community donors. Starting May 1, the Saturday meals in Marion will be open to all ages thanks to a recent McDowell Endowment grant from The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC). This is the second grant the CFWNC has awarded the Y in recent weeks for its nutrition work. The Y also received a $40,000 focus area grant to purchase a new box truck for its Healthy Living Mobile Market. “With the addition of a new vehicle, we will be able to help improve the health of families through nutritious food and education for years to come,” said Jackson.

For more information on the YMCA of WNC Nutrition Outreach program, visit https://ymcawnc.org/nutrition. To donate to any of the YMCA of WNC community initiatives, including nutrition outreach, visit https://www.ymcawnc.org/give.

About YMCA of Western North Carolina

The nonprofit YMCA of Western North Carolina strengthens local communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Founded in 1889, the YMCA of WNC engages more than 100,000 people – regardless of age, income, or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the region’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support the community. It does this through eight YMCAs, dozens of program sites, and YMCA Camp Watia. As the state’s largest provider of licensed school-age child care, it gives more than 1,000 children a day the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive. For more information, please visit ymcawnc.org.