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Many of us would be excited to discover a box of chocolates, but this was not the case when Chasity Poteat Rice discovered large quantities of them during a visit to a food pantry when she was director of Burke County United Way. Her first reaction was to get angry; her community needed access to healthy food, not candy. But she quickly realized that the pantry was simply sharing what had been donated—chocolate and lots of it.
This discovery poured water on a seed that had been planted just a few years earlier after a family friend underwent quintuple bypass surgery. Chasity’s friend had been an avid runner and, by all appearances, healthy. But his previously undetected heart disease told another story. It was his search for a more permanent solution that led him to Dr. Brian Asbill, a self-described “recovering cardiologist” and lifestyle medicine physician, who recommended he try a whole food plant-based diet. He did, and ten years later, he enjoys a healthy, active life and has achieved a new personal best as a runner.
Impressed by their friend’s recovery and wanting to support their own health, Chasity and her husband took a lifestyle medicine course with Dr. Asbill in Asheville. They were excited about what they were learning, but realized that many of their neighbors wouldn’t be able to make the hours-long weekly drive to attend a similar program. Those who could still didn’t have access to easy-to-prepare whole food meals while they were learning a new approach to eating.
“You could say C2Life was born on the side of 1-40 Westbound around Black Mountain,” Chasity explains. She decided right then that she wanted to do something in her community to end hunger and eliminate chronic diseases caused by poor nutrition.
Chasity used her background in healthcare and nonprofit development to create a business model that donated a nutrient-dense meal for every meal she sold. She partnered with Karen Teed, a culinary expert in Charlotte who shared her vision, and they began developing recipes in 2019. Dr. Asbill provided nutritional guidance, and a local commercial food kitchen began producing, packing and distributing C2Life meals in 2022 for retail sale.
Since 2020, the foundation arm of C2Life has donated more than 85,000 healthy meals in partnership with regional nonprofits. In 2021, the C2Life Foundation launched a nine-week lifestyle medicine program, Food is Medicine-Community, with Dr. Asbill to educate individuals struggling with chronic disease about the benefits of a whole food plant-based lifestyle. The program is hosted twice a year, with start dates in February and September.
Chasity was excited to join the Healthy Opportunities Pilot this year because of the pilot’s potential to impact so many people across Western North Carolina. “I love the proverb that says ‘if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,’” Chasity shares. “HOP is all about going far together.”
C2Life Foundation partners with Burke United Christian Ministries, another HOP organization, to distribute healthy meals to participants. “I really appreciate how all of the organizations in HOP work together to ensure participants’ needs are met,” Chasity notes.
C2Life Foundation provides healthy meals for pickup in Burke County as well as healthy meals and medically tailored meals for delivery in all 18 WNC counties. The organization also provides produce prescriptions for HOP participants living in Burke County. All these HOP services support C2Life’s mission, which they sum up in four simple words: Live Better. Give Better.
–Chasity Poteat Rice, Founder/CEO, C2Life foundation