About Asheville Poverty Initiative

Eradicating Poverty Through Relationships

Through the ministry of accompaniment API will, in partnership with those on the margins, develop opportunities for education and advocacy. These opportunities will foster mutual relationships across socioeconomic boundaries deconstructing the divisive and misleading categories of the "haves" and "have nots."  Together we will bear witness to an alternative community built on the truth that each person is created in the Divine Image and is needed to experience the commonwealth of God.

View our 2018 Impact Report!


Asheville Poverty Initiative is a 501c3 nonprofit that seeks to address poverty by facilitating opportunities where the voices and experiences of “the poor” are heard and valued.  While we have various ways to try and meet the immediate needs of those impacted, these basic services are rarely able to influence or change the unjust systems that cause so many to go without in the first place.

API offers opportunities for community building and personal encounters that will challenge stereotypes and decrease fear that stems from an “us” and “them”philosophy.

API believes that by listening to and learning from those most impacted, the vision moves beyond charity to a transformed and empowered community working together to create a more just and equitable economic reality.  


A Brief History of API…

Asheville Poverty Initiative was launched in January 2011. The idea developed out of local community and faith leaders who gathered to envision a more faithful way to engage the increasing poverty in WNC, and a member shared his experience with the Poverty Initiative out of Union Seminary in New York. For a year API leaders communicated with the Poverty Initiative in New York and collaborated with local nonprofits in Asheville to investigate the gaps in resources and refrain from duplicating services.

History of 12 Baskets Cafe…

Executive Director, Rev. Shannon Spencer, shares the beginning of 12 Baskets Cafe:

“When I started to pick up food in June of 2015, I thought for sure we'd have space to serve it pretty quickly.  So I kept collecting and kept asking places (primarily churches) if we could hold the Cafe there. More food kept coming in as I was repeatedly told "no" to the space. This created quite a capacity problem.  So I did two things: pulled out a folding table from my basement and popped it up outside the bus stop at Pisgah View Apt. [section 8 housing]. I chose PVA because of my relationships with two residents there who are now poverty scholars. We've been serving a meal at PVA once a week since then. The second thing was call on every friend I had to see if I could use their freezer. At one point we had food in 5 different freezers in 5 different locations.” - Rev. Spencer

12 Baskets soon started serving one lunch a week out of Kairos West Community Center two blocks down from our current location on Haywood Rd in West Asheville. When the community center found a new building, API and Kairos West collaborated to outfit the space with donated freezers, dishwasher, and steam table for the Cafe to operate regularly.

12 Baskets Cafe as it is known today, free 100% rescued food served with wait staff, opened in October 2016 with the opening of the new Kairos West Community Center. At first 4 meals a week were served, but popular demand and level of food donation quickly grew the cafe to 5 days a week. Our hope is to eventually serve seven days a week.