By Natasha Anderson
A new project, We Give a Share, supports local farmers and provides vulnerable populations with quality meals prepared by top Asheville chefs. Similar to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where members purchase a subscription to receive a regularly scheduled box of fresh produce and other farm products, We Give A Share offers supporters an opportunity to buy a nominal share of a farm dedicated to growing specifically for Asheville’s Southside Kitchen.
“We were overwhelmed with interest in CSA purchases from individual families when the COVID-19 crisis hit, and we thought about the other parts of our community that were food insecure and hadn’t reached out,” says Gaining Ground Farm’s Aaron Grier, who developed the model for We Give a Share. “Seeing what Mark Rosenstein, Hanan Shabazz and John Fleer were doing at Southside Kitchen was inspiring.”
Renowned Asheville chefs Rosenstein, Shabazz and Fleer, along with David Nash of the Asheville Housing Authority, collaborated once the pandemic hit in order to prepare and deliver meals to public housing occupants. They soon had a team of eight people serving more than 1,000 meals per week, with many going to elderly individuals who are advised to stay in.
Through We Give a Share, local farms will deliver fresh organic produce to the chefs at the kitchen weekly so their community meals are as nutritious and delicious as possible. Deliveries will be limited types of vegetables in large volume in order to provide the farm with efficient and productive usage.
“This project enables us to provide front line organic produce to the community we are feeding,” says Rosenstein. “There are other community gardens providing high-quality produce, but with donations to We Give a Share our reach has grown exponentially.”
Within nine days of the website’s launch, the project had raised $40,000 of its initial $100,000 goal. Reaching that goal will enable a full year’s production to feed 500 meals per day six days per week using local, organic produce, as well as help sustain farms that have lost more than half of their annual revenue due to pandemic-related restaurant closures.
“Our hope is for availability to transcend socio-economics, creating food security for our entire community,” says Grier. “This program helps keep agriculture economically viable as farms produce for not only the tailgate and restaurants but for the underserved as well.”
While working hard to fill the gaps that have widened due to COVID-19, the We Give a Share team is already planning a sustainable framework for the future. This includes expansion to other community kitchens and local producers and applying the model to other facets of food service.
“We have so many hopes and goals for this program,” says Grier. “It was born of a crisis, but it is a necessary bridging of communities that has needed to happen for a long time.”
Any amount can be donated to the program. For reference, $50 provides approximately two weeks’ worth of fresh vegetables for a family of four, $100 covers four weeks, $250 covers 11 weeks and $500 covers about 22 weeks.
To learn more or to donate a share, visit WeGiveaShare.org.