“Civilization as it is known today would not have evolved, nor can it survive, without an adequate supply of food.” —Norman Borlaug
If you were to journey through West Louisville, it wouldn’t take long to realize that you had entered into a major food desert. For those who don’t know, a food desert is an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. As a result, it may come as a surprise to many that every other Saturday morning between the months of July and October, you will find a treasure trove of affordable fresh vegetables and friendly faces inside the Christ Center Ministries Church located in the heart of West Louisville’s Russell neighborhood.
Russell, a once thriving black neighborhood in the heart of Louisville’s West End, has a population of 9,060. (US Census) According to Metro Louisville’s 2014 Health Equity Report, the Russell neighborhood has the city’s highest poverty rate (52.7 percent). The Russell neighborhood also has the city’s highest HIV/AIDS death rate (30 deaths per 100,000 residents), the second highest homicide death rate (49 deaths per 100,000 residents) and the second highest cancer death rate. (Health Equity Report).
These statistics create a bleak picture of a community in desperate need of change. While there is no overnight solution that can heal the generational wounds of segregation, poverty, crime and disease in Russell—several organizations have begun to plant seeds that could potentially contribute to a healthier West Louisville.
One such organization is the New Roots Fresh Stop Market. On Saturdays, the New Roots Fresh Stop Market transforms the Christ Center Ministries into a full-fledged coop produce market. Through a partnership with local farmers, the Fresh Stop Market allows city residents to buy equal shares of fresh food ranging from butternut squash, corn, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, fresh apples, peaches and more.
Fresh Stop is accessible to individuals and families from all financial backgrounds. The program accepts both cash and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—in return, no one should feel as though they can’t afford to eat healthy. Participants receive an equal share of food regardless of economic status. Each share provides enough fresh food to feed 2-4 people.
According to Karyn Moskowitz, Director of the Fresh Stop Market, families should not feel embarrassed or ashamed to receive food from the Fresh Stop. Many families don’t want to feel as though they are accepting “charity,” and thus, avoid coming to the Fresh Stop. The truth is, Fresh Stop buyers are not accepting charity; they are pooling their funds to provide a sustainable source of healthy food for their community. In addition, Fresh Stop provides nutritional demonstration and literacy to share holders, which helps families to begin living healthier.
Fresh Stop fruits and vegetables come from farms throughout the state of Kentucky and southern Indiana. All of the food is free of hormones, pesticides and is hand delivered by the farmers themselves. During my trip to the Russell Neighborhood Fresh Stop, Mary Montgomery, the New Roots Uber Farmer Liaison who also volunteers at the Russell Fresh Stop, emphasized the importance of quality foods in order to create a healthier Russell. Montgomery, who is also an employee of Norton Hospital’s Heart Center, explained that she encounters individuals everyday who suffer from heart ailments that could easily be reversed by healthier eating habits.
While the eating habits of Russell residents won’t change overnight—the New Roots Fresh Stop Market has definitely set the bar in terms of offering healthy options to those who need it most. As a community, and as a nation, we must support programs like Fresh Stop and encourage them to continue the great work they are doing.
To learn more about the New Roots Fresh Stop Market visit www.newrootsproduce.org/fresh-stops.html