The opening of the Shawnee Fresh Stop Market in June, 2011. Louisville Mayor Gregg Fischer is seen in the middle of the photo speaking with founders Joyce Wade and Myrna Brame. Founders Seth Gunning and Blaine Snipstal are to the right. Redeemer Lutheran Church is in the background.
In the late 2000s, the idea of New Roots and the Fresh Stop Markets was merely a hopeful seed buried in the soil. The nurturing of this seed was difficult, exciting, and about as organic (very!) as the countless tomatoes shareholders have already consumed this 2017 growing season. Up until the founding of New Roots in 2009, Karyn Moskowitz (co-founder and Executive Director), as well as many others throughout the city of Louisville, had been faced with an uphill effort of connecting fresh food insecure communities with the local, organic, produce that we all deserve to live a happy and healthy life. Stephen Bartlett, a friend of Karyn’s and a partner in the food justice community, states that the work up until that point “had experienced a series of major setbacks and shortcomings.” Simply put, the traditional farmers’ market models were just not working. The retail prices for the produce were too high. Based on a recommendation received days earlier, Bartlett visited a Cleveland, OH organization as part of a detour on a separate business trip. This organization had created a unique way of utilizing an income-based sliding scale for fresh food distribution throughout Cleveland, and it was proving to be very successful. The organization, called City Fresh, and its Fresh Stop Market model, is the foremother of what we here in Kentuckiana know as New Root’s Fresh Stop Markets.
With this new knowledge to battle the issue of equitable food access, Karyn Moskowitz and others, such as Al Mortenson, a longtime supporter of food justice initiatives, prepared to open the very first Fresh Stop Market in 2009. “When I moved to Louisville in 1976, I realized that fresh food was not readily available to many people in the city, especially to those in [so-called USDA] food deserts,” Mortenson says. “When I learned of the Fresh Stop Market model in 2009, I knew I wanted to be part of this new endeavor.” That same year, Al stepped up and became the site leader of the Fresh Stop Market at the Fourth Ave. United Methodist Church, the first of its kind. While there were plenty of setbacks that first year, including the loss of much of their promised produce for the season due to heavy rainfall, Moskowitz, Mortenson, and many others continued to persevere.
For the first couple of years, New Roots remained a very small organization, still searching for the strongest footing in Louisville. In 2011, things began to change. Two interns with the Presbyterian Hunger Program (P.H.P.) became heavily involved. Encouraged by P.H.P.’s Associate for National Hunger Concerns, Andrew Kang Bartlett, the two AmeriCorps VISTA interns, Seth Gunning and Blain Snipstal, community organizers from Georgia, were able to help expand the capacity of New Roots, even writing the very first grant to the Presbyterian Hunger Program, which was given to New Roots that same year. “We were all together at the initial meeting with the leadership at Redeemer Lutheran Church. The VISTAs appreciated the grassroots, local leader-driven approach and put many hours into supporting and developing curricula, the board, etc.” Says, Kang Bartlett. With this outside help, Moskowitz and New Roots were finally able to look to a promising horizon instead of focusing on the present.
Eight years and many evolutions of the Fresh Stop Market model later, Al Mortenson continues to volunteer with the Fresh Stop Markets regularly. Although there is no longer a market at the Fourth Ave. United Methodist Church, Mortenson can be seen floating between several of Louisville’s nine Fresh Stop Markets. “I continue to actively participate with the Fresh Stop Markets because I have the same desire I had when I moved to Louisville in 1976—that fresh local produce be readily available and affordable to all persons living in the city, especially to those living in fresh food insecure neighborhoods.”