A new nonprofit providing healthy food prescription and community engagement services recently opened in Henderson County and is already making a big impact.
On Oct. 12, Caja Solidaria celebrated the grand opening of its new location at 316 Chadwick Ave. The organization was recently featured in two national news stories, according to its executive director, Sonya Jones.
“Those stories were about us, highlighting efforts to improve health through prevention recently. We are a model healthy food prescription program, focusing on the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ of healthy: People, planet and economy,” she said.
Jones said there are approximately 200 families in Henderson and Transylvania counties that access affordable or free fresh produce, whole grains and protein-rich foods in Caja Solidaria’s weekly markets. The organization’s food prescription program makes it easier for low-income patients and their families to access healthy foods for healthy diets, according to a news release.
“We work hard to help members reach their health goals by sourcing culturally relevant food that benefits the environment and supports local farms and businesses,” she said.
In 2022, Caja Solidaria became a nonprofit organization and grew to one of the 10 largest providers of Healthy Food Prescription services in North Carolina, delivering more than 5,000 markets to its members, according to a news release. The organization delivers food to more than 100 families in a typical week.
Caja Solidaria hosts a pick-up market for members of the produce-buying club, healthy food prescription holders and guests. The market features local and organic food from the region, such as pie pumpkins from Lanning Road Farms, beets and potatoes from Clem’s Organic Gardens, mushrooms from Old Quarry mushrooms and a variety of apples and pears from local orchards.
According to the release, Caja Solidaria provides healthy food prescription services through an innovative North Carolina program called the Healthy Opportunities Pilot. It addresses drivers of health outcomes, such as food, housing, safety and transportation. Families report many health outcomes, from better child behavior to improved diabetes control, as a result of their access to healthy food prescription services.
According to its website (cajasolidaria.org), Caja Solidaria’s mission is to ensure everyone has “access to the abundance of our Southern Appalachian home.” The organization started as a produce-buying club with a purpose, sharing some of the food and money it raised to purchase wholesale foods with the Abundancia Community Food Bank, which was started by Delia Jovel.
Back in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, 12 families went in on wholesale food purchases for Abundancia, creating a produce-buying club and donating some of the amount paid directly to Abundancia.
“Delia named us Caja Solidaria, which means the Solidarity Food Box in English. The produce buying club continued until February 2022 when we incorporated as a nonprofit organization,” Jones said.
Beyond food prescription services, Caja Solidaria convenes nutrition education classes, supports community care circles and provides consultation on Healthy Food Prescription Programs.
“As a nonprofit, we are able to work with and for people all across Henderson and Transylvania counties to create a vibrant mutual aid network focused on food,” Jones said.
For more information go to https://www.cajasolidaria.org or call 828-290-9717.
Dean Hensley is the news editor for the Hendersonville Times-News. Email him with tips, questions and comments at DHensley@gannett.com. Please help support this kind of local journalism with a subscription to the Hendersonville Times-News.