Community Wellness + Safety

SPARC team members are often out in the community – in people’s homes and neighborhoods – working one on one, with families, or facilitating community events designed to help build and heal relationships. We often partner with local nonprofits to creatively meet needs and deliver equitable programs to increase overall community wellness and safety. 

Since 2020, SPARC has been one of Buncombe County’s Safety Initiative Partners. Collaborating with My Daddy Taught Me That and Resources for Resilience, we’ve assembled a Violence Interrupters Street Team to work in community and address challenges and needs specific to individual neighborhoods. Many of the root causes of gun violence are well-known and documented: poverty, underfunded public housing, under-resourced public services, underperforming schools, lack of opportunity and perceptions of hopelessness and easy access to firearms by high-risk people. (Learn more on our SPARCing Change resource page)(we can link it)

     While SPARC advocates to improve those systemic issues, our Street Team also works on the ground, with our neighbors most impacted by and at risk of being a victim of gun violence. With appropriate and consistent funding, our community-based safety interventions have been proven to reduce gun violence over time and include: engaging youth and seniors, empowering residents to improve the quality of their housing communities, increasing employment and educational opportunities, and offering resilience and mental health support and education.

         Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is a great resource on the importance of community-based programs and also lays out the tragic disparities and public health crises gun violence is for Black and Brown Americans. 

      “Despite making up less than a third of the US population, Black and Latino residents account for nearly three-quarters of gun homicide victims in the US. Compared to their white counterparts, Latinos are twice as likely to be murdered with a gun in the US, while Black residents are 10 times more likely to be killed by a firearm.

       This disparity is even more acute when looking at Black men, who make up 52% of all gun homicide victims, though they comprise less than six percent of the US population. In fact, firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for black males ages 15 to 34.

      It cannot be emphasized enough that Black and Brown communities experience the harm and trauma of community violence at alarmingly high rates. As such, in order to be effective, efforts to reduce violence must be culturally competent in nature and utilize a diverse, equitable, and inclusive lens.” 

The SPARC Foundation helps provide healthy nutrition for children, families and seniors through Community Engagement Markets. SPARC coordinates food delivery from MANNA food bank to eight Buncombe County sites located near low-income communities. Several neighborhoods are within Public Housing in the city, other neighborhoods are rural. In one calendar year, almost 8000 individuals received food from a Manna Pop Up in their neighborhood. Of those individuals, 60% are parents and children.

The USDA has identified six geographical areas within Buncombe County that are deemed food deserts. Residents who live in food deserts have limited options to obtain affordable, nutritious food: their communities lack access to grocery stores within walking distance; they are elderly and unable to make the trip; they do not have a vehicle or the money for gas; public transportation is unreliable and limited; they have young children who require them to be at home. These residents rely on these onsite neighborhood markets to obtain fresh and nutritious food for their families.