Rising grocery prices, along with rising housing, gas, and other costs are putting the pressure on Buncombe households. For many in our community, no-cost healthy meals and information about County and partner services and resources are a valuable lifeline. Buncombe County’s Community Engagement Markets offer free food, medical services, and information about mortgage, rental, and weatherization assistance, as well other resources directly to those most in need by meeting them where they are.
A little background
In 2013, MANNA Food Bank and the County’s Community Engagement team forged a partnership to provide safe and nutritious food. As word spread about the markets’ work, other partners came on board to help provide more peripheral support and resources. Today, the County works alongside organizations such as United Way, ABIPA, YWCA, Bounty and Soul, SPARC, Big Ivy, and ABCCM. Community Development Specialist Rasheeda Hall says the goal of this support network is to establish a safe place for people to get necessities and in return build lasting relationships with the community. “Our staff gets up every day and asks what they can do better in order to be better,” says Hall. “We are servant leaders and want to engage with our community on their terms.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic changed format and processes, we are seeing the markets return to a more pre-pandemic gathering opportunity. Staff will continue to monitor COVID-19 metrics and are prepared to be flexible and adapt to protocols as they may change, but we are looking forward to meeting people in their spaces.
Moving forward, staff plans to continue serving the community in the best way possible. Community Development Specialist Leonard Jones is looking forward to when the markets get back to normal. “They create an environment where people can interact with each other and utilize other services like medical help from United Health and free books and activities for kids,” explains Jones.
As the markets continue to pivot to broader access and resources, please help us spread the word to anyone who might benefit from their services. We’re also always looking for volunteers and partner organizations. If you’d like to get involved you can sign up through United Way of Buncombe County or email Leonard Jones at Leonard.Jones@buncombecounty.org.
Markets are held on various days and at more than 10 locations from Big Ivy Community Center to the Edington Center, and have recently expanded to serve Swannanoa/Black Mountain, South Buncombe, and Maple Crest.