Have you ever heard the terms “food justice” or “food desert?” Sounds like verbiage that describes a third-world country. In fact, they are descriptions of Louisville, namely Louisville’s West End. Karyn Moskowitz aims to stop these terms with her nonprofit organization, New Roots, which brings the best farm fresh food to the most underserved areas of our city. She is passionate about vegetables, farmers, cooking and Louisville’s limitless potential. Meet this driven woman who is determined to feed our citizens, one vegetable at a time.
Tell us about New Roots, the nonprofit organization you founded, and about Fresh Stops. What are they and what do they do here?
Fresh food is a basic human right. New Roots organizes leadership partnerships in order to provide everyone in our communities access to fresh food. We fund our initiatives here in Kentucky, and help build them in other places. Advocating for a just and equitable food system in partnership with those most affected by food insecurity is needed in order for all of the community to be nourished.
Fresh Stops are the main fruit of our labor. Fresh Stops utilizes collective buying power: everyone involved orders a share of produce on a sliding scale, in advance. On the day of the Fresh Stop, shareholders pick up the delicious bounty, 11 varieties of seasonal produce. Fresh Stops pop up at nine different locations (mostly churches) for two hours biweekly and feel like a cross between a fruit and vegetable flash mob and a family reunion.
You mention the terms “food justice” and “food desert.” What is that as it applies to Louisville?
Louisville has an extreme case of food apartheid. This is simply unacceptable and everyone should be fighting to change it. If we are to become a great city, our citizens must have the right to food.
Food deserts are characterized by high poverty rates, where people live more than one mile from a market (10 miles for rural communities) and/or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores. The lack of access can lead to higher levels of food-related diseases, such as diabetes.
Access to fresh food is a complex issue: fresh food is often too expensive for families with limited incomes. Many must choose the most calories per dollar, which translates to unhealthy carbohydrates, such as soda and chips. Add this to a lack of markets and removal from the source of knowledge of cooking from scratch and you have a justice and health disaster.
What kind of a difference can fresh food make in someone’s life, especially for someone who would not otherwise have access to it?
Access to food that nourishes us, as opposed to food-like substances that poison us, can mean higher academic achievement, work productivity and safer neighborhoods. Our bodies have the opportunity to heal from horrible food-related illnesses, and we can become better engaged family members and citizens.
Fresh Stop leaders transform from being passive consumers of high-calorie, processed food, pushed by companies and grocery stores, to active decision makers, purchasing beautiful food grown by Kentucky farmers. At Fresh Stops, you get to know your farmers and understand you are helping them make a living. That is a powerful thing.
How do you measure your success?
One of our measurements of success is the level of leadership and independence our Fresh Stop leaders exhibit. For example, are they able to negotiate prices from farmers, run spreadsheets to keep track of shareholders, etc.?
We also track share consumption rates and health metrics, number of shareholders (1,300 this season) and demographics, etc.
You said you are passionate about vegetables. Do you think everyone could be like this if they were just given exposure to fresh vegetables?
Fresh Stop shareholders and leaders become passionate about vegetables. It is a fun, unique way of purchasing food. We all work so hard to get it, and there is so much of it. You really have to eat it at every meal.
I believe that people are not eating vegetables because grocery stores often only offer varieties that are grown for transport and storage, and not for taste. To me, many grocery store vegetables taste like Styrofoam! “Heirloom” varieties of vegetables eaten immediately after picking have a deep, complex taste that everyone can embrace.
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
I wake up at 6 a.m. to help my daughter get ready for school, run a few miles, eat a plate of vegetables and protein and get a head start on dinner preparation. Then I am off to our office in the Shawnee neighborhood. My duties as director of New Roots are wide and fascinating, and include financial management, grant writing, strategizing with leaders, branding and marketing, program development and management, helping set up Fresh Stops, etc. Mix in there cooking three meals a day, being a good friend and helping the Manual Field Hockey Club (go Rams!), and you can see that I am a very busy woman. Weekends are full with friends and family, cooking and getting outdoors as much as possible.
Who are your mentors, and what advice do you treasure?
My main mentors are the hundreds of Fresh Stop leaders in West Louisville and beyond, and the 15 brilliant and creative New Roots board members. I don’t make a move unless the New Roots and/or Fresh Stop community owns the idea. We don’t come into a community and impose our ideas on people. That’s how we earned our street cred.
You’ll never see me without my ___________.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
At a Fresh Stop, home cooking and eating, or anywhere in the Highlands.
What’s your bucket list travel destination?
I’d love to visit Morocco. I love the food, the people and the Mediterranean Sea.
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
I am most content when listening to someone’s food stories. There is no other place I’d rather be than in Louisville, talking to any one of our fascinating citizens about food!
Night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
I am an early bird due to JCPS start time! During that quiet time, I go running, catch up on news via online news sources, or blast Bruce Springsteen and clean my house (I’m an original Jersey Girl!).
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
I love Jewish fiction, especially Richard Zimler. I’m reading Making Neighborhoods Whole by Wayne Gordon, about how churches engage urban ministry, and then, Collective Courage, A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice by Jessica Gordon Nembhard.
Lightning Round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: Dark Chocolate Coconut Bliss.
- Guilty pleasure song: “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen.
- Tearjerker movie pick: Schindler’s List. The descendants congregated at the end of the movie …Unbelievable.
- Standby nail polish color: Red
- Favorite cocktail: I’m not a drinker, but I do love red wine with a nice dinner out.
- Cartoon alter-ego: Lisa Simpson! She’s always looking for an opportunity to do what is just.
What are three of your favorite things right now?
I am not very materialistic, so I don’t have favorite things per se. What I really love are people: my almost-16-year-old daughter (she is a riot!), friends and colleagues. Of course, I love my Fresh Stop share (local organic raspberries this week, y’all!) and Louisville. I really, really, really love Louisville.
Thank you to our talented FACES photographer Adele Reding. See more of her portfolio here.
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