This September, twenty nine Asheville-area hotels will jointly embark on a major month-long collaboration to help feed the thousands of families that face hunger every day across Western North Carolina.
Sweet Dreams, Full Plates: Hospitality Feeds Families will take place throughout the entire month of September, coinciding with national Hunger Action Month. Local hotels will compete with each other for a wonderful cause: To see which hotel can raise the most money to benefit MANNA FoodBank.
Hidden within the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a harsh reality: 1 in 6 people and 1 in 4 children in WNC don’t know where their next meal will come from.The majority of families who reach out to MANNA’s network throughout the year are facing a unique “socio-economic storm” of factors in WNC. The Asheville area is the most expensive housing in not just the state, but the tristate area, outpacing even Atlanta in housing costs. With a distinct lack of affordable housing, families must live further and further from their jobs, and without accessible mass transportation, must also have access to a reliable vehicle. One unexpected car repair can start an economic spiral that most families living paycheck to paycheck simply cannot escape.
In the last year alone, MANNA FoodBank has seen a huge increase in the number of working families that are struggling to make ends meet, forced to make hard choices about how to spend their very limited resources. Over 75% of families served by MANNA’s network have had to choose between buying food and paying utility bills; over 64% of families have had to choose between buying food and paying for necessary medicine or medical care.*
“It is rare that an opportunity brings together our guests and employees to impact the local community,” said Robert Foster, Director of Hotel Operations for Biltmore Farms Hotels. “Starting the Feed A Family program with Biltmore Farms Hotels did just that and was a meaningful experience for all involved, as well as strengthened our relationship with MANNA FoodBank.”
Sweet Dreams, Full Plates aims to connect the Asheville metro area’s thriving tourism industry to local hunger relief issues—a feat not easily accomplished in an industry almost exclusively supported by people visiting from outside the area, who might be unfamiliar with the local community’s needs. Hotel guests will have a chance to make a real impact while visiting, as well as learn more about hunger issues in the WNC region.
“MANNA has enjoyed support from the hospitality sector for decades,” said Alisa Hixson, Director of Corporate Engagement and Signature Events for MANNA FoodBank. “This innovative partnership marks a strategic opportunity to enlarge the circle of support and engage visitors to our region who desire to partake in our unique offerings and also leave something in return.”
“Hospitality businesses are generous supporters of local charitable efforts,” noted Explore Asheville President & CEO Stephanie Brown. “We applaud the lodging industry involving some of the 3.8 million overnight visitors to engage them in our community to participate in a local effort of giving.”
Area hotels will engage hotel guests to make an impact on local hunger during their stay throughout September. Guest participation is easy: Hotel guests can choose to forgo stayover services and simply hang a door hanger on their room door. The door hanger says, “We Fed A Family,” and for every room that chooses to participate, the hotel will make a $2 donation on their behalf. With each $2 donation, MANNA FoodBank can provide enough food for 7 meals.
Hotel staff are already buzzing about the upcoming competition as just another opportunity to help give back to their local community, and are signing up to take group tours of MANNA’s facilities to get a better understanding of the issue of hunger in WNC before the September campaign kicks off.
“A small idea that has evolved into a community-wide initiative and brings the hospitality industry together is more than we could have imagined, and our employees are excited to see the positive impact we can collectively have on hunger in Western North Carolina,” said Foster.
Each participating hotel will track their weekly fundraising efforts in the friendly competition; the winning hotel will receive a “huge” thank you: A giant billboard announcing the winner, bragging rights, and, of course, the warmth that comes from knowing that they helped fill the plates of families across WNC.
“This program invites visitors to share in a value dear to our region,” said Hixson. “It is part of Asheville’s appeal and what draws diverse visitors: an inclusive mindset. That is, neighbors helping neighbors, where even short-term neighbors can make a difference.”