The Health Ambassador program at the Center for Healthy Air Water and Soil supports the people in Louisville who are working to make their communities healthier, whether it is in relation to physical, nutritional, environmental, economic, psychological, intellectual spiritual or cultural health.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, Nutritional Health or practicing healthy eating habits is making choices that reflect your preferences, culture, traditions, and budget by choosing fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein foods as your main source of nutrition and personal calorie needs. It is having a variety of foods and beverages from each food group and limiting intake of processed and packaged foods, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
An important part of achieving nutritional health is having access to fresh, healthy foods. As an Ambassador for Nutritional Health, Karyn Moskowitz, Founder and Executive Director of New Roots, Inc., is doing her part to make sure more communities have opportunities, knowledge, and skills to make healthier food choices.
Moskowitz is delighted to be a Health Ambassador for the Center for Healthy Air Water and Soil because as she says, “It provides a platform for me to share my love of organic, local, farm-fresh food and promote the fact that equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables is the most critical determinant of our individual and community health.”
“At a time when a skilled, educated, and healthy workforce is a significant need in the economic development of our community, being hungry and malnourished isn’t just an anecdote, it is a real problem,” she added.
New Roots Creates Opportunities for People to Achieve Nutritional Health
Moskowitz experienced fresh food insecurity herself, after relocating to Paoli, Indiana from the West Coast over 20 years ago. She often ate out of a food pantry in Bloomington. Then she began working at the pantry, which led to her running it. “I tend to take over,” Moskowitz said with a laugh. Then ten years ago, she was recruited to try to create a farmers’ market movement in Louisville’s California (West Louisville) neighborhood and lift up the struggling market at Meyzeek Middle School.
Louisville has over 33,000 people with limited access to healthy foods and has almost twice the average in high fast food restaurants which mostly sell cheap, high-fat, high-sugar, processed foods and offer few healthy options. Why is this noteworthy?
Some quick facts about unhealthy diets:
- Diet-related diseases are a leading cause of preventable death
- Citizens of low-income areas have decreased access to healthy food, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables.
- People in low-income communities suffer more from diet-related diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers, and osteoporosis than those in higher-income
Moskowitz believed that every citizen has a right to access quality, healthy and affordably priced food. She knew that the keys to offering that access were independent, family farmers of Kentucky but the initiative faced some problems.
“We had problems recruiting farmers to work with us. Many of the people around Meyzeek couldn’t afford the retail prices of organic food.” Also, the organic, small family farmers that supply Farmers’ Markets in high-income neighborhoods were not always willing to work with the group. “Why should they leave their East End locations where they could charge more for their products?”
Fresh Stop Markets Offer Access and Affordability
Moskowitz did some research and found a model program in Cleveland called Fresh Stop. “It was a good model and it was working. We adopted it and made it our own.”
Fresh Stop Markets are volunteer, community-driven farm-fresh food markets that pop up bi-weekly at local churches, community centers, and businesses in places where fresh produce isn’t always available.
Fresh Stop Markets are not only increasing food access, they also offer a solution to the issue of affordability. “We created an income-based sliding scale for our families. This enabled us to pool resources so that families who would not normally have enough money to buy the fresh, organic products could. It gave us enough buying power to negotiate with more farmers.”
New Roots operates their Fresh Stop Markets from June to November each year, connecting families who have no access to fresh food with local family-owned farms in Kentucky and Indiana. In 2018, New Roots connected 5,400 area residents with ten family farms and delivered 9,500 shares (bags) of full of affordable, locally grown, organic vegetables.
Shareholders are pooling their resources together in a form of cooperative economics, building enough buying power to purchase at wholesale prices from the farmers, and even influence which seeds they will plant for next year.
The shareholders’ financial commitment ensures that farmers don’t face the same degree of risk as with traditional farmers’ markets. The sliding scale means food is affordable and everyone is included. Families receiving WIC and SNAP and others with limited resources pay $12, others pay $25, and those who would like to purchase a share for their family and support neighbors in need pay $40. All Fresh Stop Markets accept SNAP Benefits and thanks to Kentucky Double Dollars, all SNAP Benefits are doubled.
Fresh Stop Markets offers knowledge and skills
Moskowitz knew there was another barrier in getting people to consume healthy foods: Many people just don’t know what to do with a turnip or a rutabaga. “So at each Fresh Stop Market pop-up, we not only offer the ingredients to make fresh and healthy meals, but we have a chef on hand to create a dish and to offer tastings.” Visitors can also take home printed recipes provided by the chefs.
Jonet Wright is one person who benefited from the New Roots movement in several ways. An alumni of Volunteers of America Freedom House, a treatment program for alcohol and/or drug dependent pregnant women, and women with young children.
Wright says, “We did our workshare with Fresh Stop Market in Smoketown. That’s where I got introduced to the program…and to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
After graduating from Freedom House, someone at ChooseWell suggested Wright volunteer at New Roots. She has now been volunteering for three years. “I’ve learned so much about the organization and about how important eating healthy food is. At first, I didn’t know what to eat, what to cook. But now I make sure my kids follow a healthy diet.”
Fifty for 50
New Roots, Inc., recently announced the Fifty for 50 campaign, in which local micro and small businesses contribute at least $50 per month to help increase food availability in Louisville. Fifty dollars provides a month’s worth of fresh vegetables for a family of four and supports local farmers by creating a market where they can sell produce with limited risk.
Moskowitz says, “We are looking to raise $30,000 from 50 businesses. This total investment means these businesses are making it possible for 225 fresh-food insecure families to access healthy food for the entire growing season, while at the same time helping small, family farms in Kentucky thrive.”
New Roots is working hard to change lives and provide an opportunity for farmers and residents to plan the next generation of local food businesses.
Learn more about New Roots:
- Sign the shareholder interest form for the 2019 Fresh Stop Markets:
- Sign up to be a volunteer (all volunteers are encouraged to become shareholders)
- Sign up to donate to become either a Fifty for 50 sponsor or a Sustainable Roots Annual Campaign donor
- Keep up with New Roots on Facebook and Instagram.
For more information about the Center for Healthy Air Water and Soil, see these articles: