Food security is a constant concern for many in Western North Carolina.

Obtaining an adequate amount of food is a daily struggle for individuals and families living on little or no income. While food boxes available through community resources are meant to supplement a household’s food supply, for many it acts as their primary source. For these households, the nutritious value of a meal often takes a back seat to what is affordable.

Finding ways to create healthy meals can be especially difficult for the housing insecure and homeless population who do not have reliable access to food storage or cooking appliances.

HERE in Jackson County, which provides services to those at-risk of or experiencing homelessness, has partnered with local nonprofit Uncomplicated Kitchen, to address this barrier for its shelter clients. HERE’s seasonal shelter program was extended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among Jackson’s homeless population and continues to operate in various hotels with rooms equipped only with microwaves for meal preparation.

After learning that shelter clients were living off of food boxes consisting of items they had no way to cook, Uncomplicated Kitchen Director Jenna Kranz reached out to help.

“Just because people have access to healthy ingredients doesn’t mean they know what to do with them or are comfortable trying to learn on their own,” Kranz said.

Because hotel shelter clients have access only to a microwave oven, Kranz began creating no-cook and microwave-friendly recipes that require very few cooking tools and ingredients readily available to shelter clients and food box recipients. 

“Many of our clients receive food boxes through The Community Table, but HERE is providing additional food assistance thanks to support received from The Community Foundation of WNC” HERE Housing Case Manager Destri Leger said. “We provide supplemental groceries for weekends, including Jenna’s recipes and their ingredients. Because the recipes include affordable items like canned vegetables, beans and microwavable rice, we’ve already distributed almost 70 of these meal kits.”

In addition to the ingredients and recipes, shelter clients were also given access to online cooking videos for each recipe.

“In our current climate of social distancing, we’re offering pre-recorded cooking videos, Facebook Live broadcast classes and personalized video chat cooking lessons to provide barrier-free access to our services in as many ways as possible,” Kranz said. “We are proud to partner with HERE in Jackson County and are honored to support the work they do.”

Uncomplicated Kitchen’s mission is to address food security through education and to ensure that all community members can prepare healthy meals with food they have available. The organization teaches meal planning, smart shopping and the cooking skills to encourage healthy eating for all community members.

For more information about HERE in Jackson County and its housing and homeless services, call 477-4946, go to www.hereinjacksoncounty.org or visit facebook.com/hereinjc.