The YMCA of Western North Carolina’s award-winning summer feeding program is partnering with three local chefs to serve healthy, delicious food at its summer day camps.

The Y’s vending partners are Chef Gene Ettison of the Ettison Investment Group, Chef Aaron Mathews of McDowell Local, and Chef Clarence Robinson of Cooking with Comedy Catering.

The program, which is funded by the USDA and administered through the state of North Carolina, is expected to serve more than 32,000 meals at five summer day camp sites in Buncombe and McDowell counties.

“Not only is this a huge win for our camp families because of the local food that will be vended, but also for our local economy with our state reimbursement dollars going directly to small businesses in the area,” said Cory Jackson, executive director of community health at the YMCA of Western North Carolina.

The chefs say they are glad to work with the Y to feed kids. “The partnership with the YMCA has provided consistent employment for veterans, mothers, and recent high school graduates. We invest in community,” said Ettison.

Food relief efforts continue

Local food insecurity has increased during the COVID-19 shutdown, along with unemployment and uncertainty about the economic future. Since mid-March, the YMCA has scaled up its traditional nutrition outreach program to meet community needs.

Over the past three months the Y has served more than 40,000 prepared meals through its ongoing partnership with Wicked Weed and Food Connection as part of the Beers That Build initiative. The delivery program has brought meals to children, families, seniors, veterans, and shelter residents.

The Y has also distributed more than 150,000 pounds of fresh produce and healthy food at its monthly mobile markets in five counties. That’s four times the amount of produce typically served in a three-month period. More than 10,000 families have benefited from this free service during that time.

Open meals sites

The Y also partnered with Asheville City Schools for the fifth consecutive year to provide free meals to anyone 18 and under at Pisgah View Apartments and Crowell Apartments. This year they're providing both breakfast and lunch Monday-Thursday, and on Friday kids receive triple meals. Breakfast and lunch is served on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

They're also operating several other open sites for anyone 18 and under at the Ferguson Family YMCA in Candler, Corpening Memorial YMCA in Marion, Patton Pool in Hendersonville, Montford Cove Baptist Church in Rutherfordton, and Grace Community Church in Marion.

How the community can help

Demand has been extremely high at the mobile markets, and the Y welcomes donations of produce, low-sodium canned vegetables, brown rice, black beans, lentils, and whole wheat bread, pasta, and crackers.

Volunteers are also needed to sort produce, load trucks, deliver meals, and assist at food distribution sites. To sign up, go to ymcawnc.org/volunteer.

The Y’s food distribution schedule is online at ymcawnc.org/nutrition. People who are quarantined and in need of food resources can call 828 775 7081 for assistance.

Donations support the Y’s nutrition outreach efforts. To contribute, please go to ymcawnc.org/give.

Gene Ettison.jpg

Chef Gene Ettison is a Summer Feeding Program Chef from Sand Hill and Reynolds Middle: The Ettison Investment Group is a business hyper-focused on entry level job training for Buncombe County’s residents in under serviced communities.

About the Y’s Summer Feeding Program Chefs

  • Chef Gene Ettison (Sand Hill and Reynolds Middle): The Ettison Investment Group is a business hyper-focused on entry level job training for Buncombe County’s residents in under serviced communities.
  • Chef Aaron Mathews (Pleasant Garden, Marion): We’re a family-owned downtown restaurant (McDowell Local) with a simple goal: provide our friends, family, and neighbors with a relaxed dining experience that keeps folks coming back. We aim to bring you fresh and tasty food, using locally-sourced ingredients whenever we can. Local is good, y’all.
  • Chef Clarence Robinson (Oakley and Avery’s Creek): With his business, Cooking with Comedy Catering, Robinson meshes his A-B Tech culinary training and a decade of back-of-house restaurant experience with a natural propensity for clowning around to craft a kid-friendly and nutritious camp menu.

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