Food Programs

Bringing free, healthy produce and nutrition education to the community.

Food for all

In North Carolina, more than 1.5 million people don't have reliable access to food. The Y wants to change that.

Everyone needs access to healthy and nutritious food choices. Many of our neighbors live in areas where it is difficult to buy affordable fresh food. Some can't even afford it.

To bridge that gap, the Y:

  • Distributes free, healthy produce with no questions asked
  • Teaches good nutrition habits
  • Offers cooking demonstrations and tips
  • Serves residents of Buncombe, Henderson, McDowell, Haywood, and Madison counties.

Mobile food markets

The Y brings fresh, healthy food to hundreds of families each month at dozens of locations in a five-county area.

Our mobile food markets are set up like a free farmers market at libraries, churches, doctors' offices, and other community hubs. We ask no questions and place no limits on the amount of food each person chooses.

In addition to food, we share tasty recipes, practical cooking demonstrations, and valuable nutrition information that's easy to understand.

Spanish-speaking community staff are also on hand to connect attendees with local resources.

See our market times and locations here. Schedules are subject to change. 


Mobile Food Market Schedule | June



Los mercados móviles

Los mercados móviles de alimentos de la YMCA visitan muchos lugares en el oeste de Norte Carolina y brindan alimentos gratuitos, frescos y saludables para usted o su hogar. No les hacen preguntas, no se requiere ni información personal ni identificación. Solo díganos la cantidad de personas para las que estén recibiendo comida, eso es todo.

Encuentre nuestros horarios para obtener alimentos frescos y gratis para usted o su hogar. Si necesita ayuda para traducir nuestros horarios, llámenos al 828-251-5910 o envíe un correo electrónico a [email protected].


Calendario del Mercado Móvil | Junio


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Cooking Matters Signature Courses

Cooking Matters Signature Courses teach adults and children how to prepare and shop sensibly for healthy meals on a limited budget. Over the course of six weeks, instructors build upon participants’ own experiences to teach budgeting, shopping, and cooking skills.

Participants gain confidence in their new skills through hands-on classes that result in improved cooking techniques and shopping savvy in daily life. Classmates also help one another by sharing feedback on each other’s progress. Participants receive ingredients weekly to practice making the class recipes at home.

By using what they learn in class at home, Cooking Matters course graduates maximize their food resources, make healthier choices for their families, and prepare balanced, delicious meals.

Because proper nutrition is critical for children’s health, development, and ability to learn, acquiring these skills can return important long‐term benefits for a family’s physical and economic well-being.

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) teaches children how to make healthy food choices and to enjoy physical activity, contributing to their social and physical development. HEPA standards build a healthier future for our nation’s children by creating environments rich in opportunities for eating well and moving more.

Our Y has adopted HEPA standards throughout all of our nutrition work, including snacks in our afterschool and day camp programs, as well as the healthy food we distribute in the community.

Volunteer opportunities 

  • Mobile Food Markets  
    At our mobile food markets volunteers help set up the tables and crates of foods for participants to go through the line smoothly. Throughout the market, volunteers can help greet folks, discuss the different types of foods available and how to prepare them, help weigh out the food, and assist participants in carrying bags to their cars. This opportunity is best-suited for volunteers who are interested in food security and relationship building, are comfortable standing a lifting heavy items, and enjoy nutrition volunteering talking about food! The total time of this volunteer opportunity is usually about an hour and a half.  
  • Food Sorting  
    Before we bring food out to market, it all needs to be sorted. Our food sorters help separate all of the food donated to our program into separate bins, compost what cannot be consumed, distinguish what follows our nutrition/HEPA standards and uphold cleanliness and organization in our space. This opportunity is best-suited for volunteers who are comfortable being on their feet for a couple of hours and aren't afraid to get messy with some fruits and vegetables!  
  • Cooking Matters  
    The YMCA of WNC participates in the national Cooking Matters program by hosting six-week cooking courses and single-occurrence store tours for a variety of age groups (although most of our Cooking Matters work is with adults). The goal of Cooking Matters is to provide relevant information and hands-on experience to low-income individuals and families who want to learn how to cook from scratch and eat healthfully on a budget. This opportunity is best suited to volunteers who enjoy cooking, nutrition, and sharing food-centered conversations and experiences with others. You can volunteer as a one-time assistant or join us for an entire six-week program as a volunteer chef or volunteer nutrition educator. You can learn more about the Cooking Matters program here.  
  • Food Explorers  
    Food Explorers is an afterschool nutrition education program established during the 2017-18 academic year by our AmeriCorps/Project POWER member. The program leader and the students cook together, sample new foods, discuss cultural foods, learn about physical activity, and engage in community activities. This opportunity is best-suited for volunteers who love working with kids in a fast-paced after-school environment. You will accompany the AmeriCorps/Project POWER member in our department to local elementary schools and assist with nutrition education lessons for elementary schoolers (and occasionally middle schoolers).  
  • Weekend Meals  
    Looking for a volunteer opportunity on the weekend? Join us at one of our occasional weekend meal sites and help a team member distribute free meals to kids.  
  • Interns  
    Throughout the year we're happy to host dietetic interns or undergraduate students requiring supervised practice hours. Please contact someone from the team to explore what an internship with our Nutrition Outreach programs can look like.


To learn more about these programs, please email us or call 828-775-7081.

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