Louisville families shouldn't be struggling to find fresh food
The Courier Journal's continued coverage of food insecurity in Louisville is supported by the University of Southern California Center for Health Journalism's 2018 National Fellowship.
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By Karyn Moskowitz
About two years ago today, the Kroger Co. announced its decision to close the only full-service grocery store in downtown Louisville. Overnight, thousands of Louisvillians —many of them struggling with limited resources — were left without a place nearby to purchase basic necessities.
It was the fifth grocery store to close over the previous months. In a Courier Journal article published that day, a Louisville Metro representative was quoted as saying that city officials were “working with Kroger and other potential grocery operators and neighborhood leaders for several months and will continue to do so.”
In the two years since, local government leaders have not been successful — although there have been conversations with retailers such as Aldi’s — in attracting a full-service grocery store to a food-insecure neighborhood.
Women and children and people of color suffer more from food insecurity than anyone else. Fresh food security — the ability to access the affordable life-giving fruits, vegetables and protein we all need to be happy and healthy is even more out of reach for these groups. Yet lack of access to this life-giving food is one of the root causes of painful, yet preventable, and expensive food-related chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
Everyone, regardless of where they live, the color of their skin, their gender, their age, or how much money they make is entitled — yes entitled — to fresh food. Like air and water, shelter and clothing, fresh food should be a basic human right. Then why are we finding it so difficult to feed everyone in our city?
Grocery stores — at least as they exist now — are not coming back into our empty buildings to save us. Those of us struggling with this issue along with our allies are going to have to save ourselves. Period. So, let’s build upon the wisdom of my Russian refugee grandmother — who used to say, “to kvetch (complain) is human, to act is divine” — and act. I personally have been able to turn my kvetching into real, demonstrative action and change. You can join me in one or more of these ways:
New Roots Fresh Stop Markets, which I helped to found and continue to direct along with hundreds of volunteer leaders, thousands of eaters and two handfuls of farmers, is a movement this city (and state) should be proud of and uphold just as loudly and proudly as our status as a “foodie city.”
For over eight years, we have successfully leveraged the power of cooperative economics to pool our money and SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) on an income-based sliding scale, and negotiate wholesale prices with local organic produce farmers. We pop up for two hours, biweekly in the community from June through November. Everyone gets the same fresh food no matter what they pay!
Last year we helped 4,200 people connect to organic veggies and fruit in communities that lack grocery stores and cannot support farmers’ markets.
New Roots has successfully partnered with other nonprofits such as ChooseWell, Volunteers of America and YouthBuild to grow this movement. It has also been a game changer for us to meet and get to know private sector leaders such as Scott Koloms from Facilities Management Services and Mike Mays from Heine Brothers.
Both leaders committed to fund produce shares (bags) for some of their staff, who also volunteered to create and operate the Portland Fresh Stop Market at the FMS headquarters.
Right now, connecting thousands of people to local, organic produce through Fresh Stop Markets is not fully financially sustainable based just on the cost of the food. This is because 70 percent of our shareholders identify as struggling with limited resources, and it takes a lot of ingenuity (and muscle) to get folks to eat their veggies.
This is where you come in. Not able to pay all of your staff a living wage? Follow the lead of Mike and Scott and help pay for their food.
You will have happier employees, lower turnover and fewer sick days. Unable to become a Fresh Stop Market shareholder? That’s OK. Donate a share to a family you know or let us find a family.
Every community member can get involved as a leader in this movement. Are you a leader in your church, synagogue or mosque? Organize members to purchase shares together and enjoy a summer of sharing recipes and changing your lives by being out in the community, meeting new people and eating healthy. Do a cooking demo at a market. Health care practitioners can help spread the word. Get your immediate family involved.
To be sure, Fresh Stop Markets will most likely never become a grocery store. There are other people in our community testing nonprofit and cooperative grocery store models. However, bringing fresh, local, organic produce to our most food-insecure neighborhoods is a great start.
Kentucky is blessed with more family farms per capita and access to more water than just about any other state in the country. This means we can, after many years of importing our produce from places like Mexico and California, begin to grow our own food and feed ourselves. New Roots leaders have proven that there is demand for farm-fresh organic produce regardless of demographics. I’m talking about the juiciest tomatoes, leafiest greens and righteous beets.
Collectively, our community has the money and time to help make fresh food a basic human right. You personally, us collectively, right now, can make a huge shift in thousands of people’s lives by getting involved through partnerships, leadership and/or investment. Trust me on this. You will love the food, the people and the positive way it will change your life. So now, let’s Broc and Roll!
[This story was originally published by Courier Journal.]