Amber Burns, pictured here (on the far left), after leading a Food Justice Workshop at Harvard Law School, February 2016, with other national food justice leaders.
This blogpost was composed by Amber Burns, New Roots Food Justice Leader and former staff member. Keep on the look out for the dates of the 2017 Food Justice Classes where we look forward to hearing your food story:
I am a lifelong resident of West Louisville. I was born here. I grew up here. My parents, two lower middle class workers, made a lovely home for their family here. My husband and I purchased our first home here. Needless to say, my roots run deep in West Louisville.
West Louisville is composed of 9 predominately Black neighborhoods. Most residents are also classified as having limited resources. Due to decades of isolation, institutional racism and income disparities, my community became a food swamp; all but void of affordable fresh produce but overflowing with cheap, high calorie, high sugar, processed "food." I use the term "food" loosely.
When I was child, there were two groceries stores meant to service 9 neighborhoods and about 80,000 residents. Needless to say our choices were limited. For my family, the nearest grocery story was 20 minutes away. I thought it was normal to travel outside of our neighborhood to purchase food. I thought it was normal for families to buy processed food in bulk because they knew it would last them until the next pay period. My parents did not have a lot of money, but made sure I never went to bed hungry. This often meant that a meal consisted of a meat, starches and canned green beans. If these items were not attainable, then a bowl of ramen noodles was a quick and cheap "treat."
When my family became more economically stable, whole foods were more available in the house but by then, the damage had been done. Vegetables like collard greens and cabbage made me gag and I refused to eat a salad unless it was drenched in dressing. My mother worked 3rd shift in a factory and would often be too tired to pressure me to eat my veggies. And thus, for the first 20 years of my life, I ate absolutely no fresh fruit or veggies.
At the end of my undergraduate career, a few things happened that would change my outlook on food forever. My father's type 2 diabetes was becoming worse and I realized that his eating habits mirrored my own. I also met a new friend whose family was vegan. His mother would prepare beautiful elaborate meals that were delicious. This opened my eyes to what eating could look like.
Upon graduation, I was working as a food runner and was in desperate need of a job. My introduction to the world of food justice came by way of craigslist. While job hunting under Non-Profits, I came across a posting to become an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Presbyterian Hunger Program. I had no idea what food justice meant but I knew I lived in a food desert and I had a social justice background so I applied. Surprisingly, they hired me. Through my work with PCUSA as a Community Food Justice Cultivator I was introduced to many organizations, the most moving one being New Roots; Fresh Stop Markets. For the first time I felt supported in my journey to food freedom. I was surrounded by people from my neighborhood, who look like me and loved broccoli. They held my hand as I transitioned from a diet of mostly processed foods, to now eating kale for breakfast. Today, when Fresh Stop season concludes, I still must leave my neighborhood to purchase quality fresh produce. I have the privilege of having a vehicle. I have the privilege of knowing there is better. I have the privilege of being able to afford better. I have the privilege of having a whole community of people behind me.
"Tune into heaven but keep feet on earth. [We must] pray with our feet and become God’s light in the world as active doers."
- Rabbi Everett Gendler
“'Doing' means working to obtain food justice for all."
- New Roots, Inc.
“Mommy, can you make those turnips again tonight. They were so good!” are words I never thought I’d hear from my ten year old daughter. The turnip was the one thing in our bag of fresh fruits and veggies that we had received at our first Fresh Stop Market that I had never prepared before (or ever thought I wanted to). Fortunately, every share comes with a list of recipes for each item I pick up every two weeks from the big room of tables loaded with fresh local produce at the Shawnee Presbyterian Church. The sign said, “take one turnip” so, dutifully, I did. Then, I chose what looked like the easiest, most kid friendly recipe...basically cut up a turnip and cook it in butter and salt...and the result was that my kids were asking for seconds!
That was their first introduction into the Fresh Stop Market experience. After a few months of picking up our share myself, I decided to start bringing them along with me. All the volunteers were so friendly towards them, commenting on Melody’s hair and asking Leah about how her school year got started. They felt instantly at home. Then, they discovered the samples! At every Fresh Stop Market there are volunteer chefs who create dishes out of the seasonal produce that is available for pick up. Not only did my kids chow down on yellow squash salad, stir fried okra, vegetable frittatas and lentil stew but, again, they asked for seconds! Sometimes, the volunteers will just leave out a bowl of raw cauliflower or cantaloupe and let the freshness of the local food “speak for itself.” Now, my kids will ask me, “Mom, is this a Fresh Stop week? Can I come with you?”
Now, we have collected and donated canned goods and other non-perishable items for food drives. Sure, it makes you feel good, like you’re making a difference to someone who is hungry and needs to eat something right now. Our experience at the Fresh Stop has been vastly different! We are all there together, picking up the same food. You can’t tell who is paying $25 for their bag of food and who is on SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps). Everyone is “shopping” together at what looks like any other farmer’s market where you see folks examining the zucchini, tapping the cantaloupe and choosing exactly the one they want. I overhear people swapping recipes and discussing their favorite methods for preparing each vegetable. Another difference from donating to a food drive is that the food is dramatically healthier than anything you can find in a can or cardboard package. In fact, those foods are loaded with so much salt, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup that, sadly, 65 percent of individuals who get their food from food pantries and feeding programs suffer from diet-related illnesses. And, we are supporting local farmers by guaranteeing them the income through pre-ordered shares. It’s a win, win, WIN situation!
The New Roots organization has been so successful in our area and throughout Kentucky that they are opening another Fresh Stop Market right here in our own backyard on September 7! Please visit: http://www.newroots.org/store/c16/Gendler_Grapevine.html for more information.
B’teiavon! Eat in good health!
Cantor Sharon Hordes, Keneseth Israel Synagogue, Louisville, Kentucky
Shareholder, Shawnee Presbyterian Fresh Stop Market
I didn't have many friends in elementary school. I wasn't aware of it at the time. I was just a happy kid, happy to grow up with both of my loving parents and occasionally nice siblings. Like any kid, I had no concrete aspirations. One day I’d want to be a lawyer, the next it was a bus driver or a school teacher. I was the “good apple” in class. I almost never got in trouble and thought following the rules was the most important thing and that if I didn’t have an A or 5 gold stars, my life was over. But boy, did that change.
I remember how much I hated vegetables. My parents tried to win me over with that story about having super strength after eating vegetables for so long. I started slowly with broccoli and cheese. It was alright. But what really took the trophy was potato soup, which is still my favorite vegetable dish today (sometimes I cheat and add bacon bits and cheese). Nevertheless, I could eat it all day.
She wrote my recommendation to get into duPont Manual’s Journalism & Communications magnet. When I was accepted, I couldn’t help but think that it was all because of her. But I never got a chance to tell her how great Manual was. She died the next year. It’s almost as if she was kept here a little longer to help me succeed; to be the teacher and friend I needed, because without her, I probably wouldn’t have written this.
My life has changed so much since I’ve been at Manual. I came for creative writing, stayed for digital design, and continued forward with photography. Since my visit to New York my freshmen year, things have been different. I can’t say why because I do not know. All I know for sure is that the boy who went was not the same boy who came back.
So now, here I am; In a house of four, in that same house on Hill Street. I have more friends than I could have imagined back then. I'm confident and comfortable with who I am. I’m Robert Spencer, photographer and designer for New Roots and commission.
Attending Manual showed me how to challenge boundaries and rules and instructions, and how to think for myself. By the time my freshman year (2014-2015) was over, I had quit going days without talking, and had actually joined a band.
Through Manual, I met Cicada Hoyt and Robert Spencer. Cicada’s mom is the founder and executive director of New Roots, although I didn’t know it at the time. Robert Spencer became my best friend, and now works with me as an intern at New Roots.
My second major step into Louisville’s community was joining the band. At all of our shows, I see people who are involved in many different communities in many prolific ways, and I’m in awe of every single one of them. The music scene in Louisville is outstanding and deeply intriguing. It really is a scene, and that status is hard to put into words. It’s like it doesn’t exist until suddenly you find your personal lynchpin, and suddenly it’s everywhere all at once. Louisville’s music scene has spread into every nook and cranny of the city, and it’s beautiful.
My third step happened--and almost didn’t happen--towards the end of sophomore year. I was looking for a summer job, and I planned to work at Paul’s Fruit Market. I was going to work there until I graduated from high school or got fired--preferably the former.
However, one day, I got an email from Karyn Moskowitz about an internship opening at New Roots made possible by the Mayor’s Summerworks program. Originally I declined the offer due to convenience of transportation and the safety of working at Paul’s. However, within ten minutes of hitting send, I regretted it. I quickly typed up a retraction email, and hit send for the second or third time as my gut squirmed. And finally, I received an email in response, and that was it. As long as I filled out a packet of bureaucratic paperwork, I’d be working at New Roots.
But Fresh Stop Markets are not just another “top-down” solution. The business model encourages people to organize, unite, and share skills and connections. They provide their own solutions by organizing market days and coordinating with local farmers.
This season, which kicks off in June, 10 Kentuckiana Fresh Stop Markets need chefs, just like Megan, to volunteer to fill the 100 available cooking slots.
Our New Logo
From day one, our mission has been to work with fresh food-insecure communities to create sustainable systems for accessing farm-fresh foods. As our organization and the local food justice movement has grown and developed over the years, it only makes sense that our look should evolve along with it. So after much brainstorming and tinkering, we are excited to unveil our new logo and to share with our followers what we believe this vibrant new mark says about New Roots.
The Beet Goes On
While the beet has been a part of our identity since 2011, the vegetable represented in our new logo is more authentic and more beautifully illustrates many of the qualities that define us. The beet is hard and has fortitude, much like New Roots leaders who are igniting a movement by positively disrupting the existing food systems. Once roasted over slow heat, the beet softens and becomes delicious. This is similar to New Roots, as we have grown slowly and deliberately over the years, earning some bruises, accolades and now sweet success from leaders all over the country. Beet juice is stubborn, with stains that are difficult to remove, much like New Roots. We are persistent. No matter how big the obstacle, or how many times we’re told it can’t be done, we find a way to deliver on our promise of food justice for all.
Fresh Food is a Basic Human Right
The new logo is fresh, modern, positive and has a justice-minded tagline. It says to the world that we’re serious about uniting communities and ending food injustice. Just like air and water, everyone has a right to fresh food. It allows New Roots to use food as an entry point to a broader conversation about changes in political and social institutions that can lead to happy and healthier lives for everyone. No matter what zip code we live in or how much money we bring in, we will come together as ONE community celebrating our differences
About the Designer
Kendrick Rashad Jones is a 26 year old graphic designer based out of Louisville, Ky who has recently become “veggie obsessed.” Kendrick is a proud graduate of Central State University and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. It was at Central that he discovered his love for design and has been freelancing ever since. Kendrick moved back to the Derby City in 2013 and was quickly sucked into the New Roots Vortex by his (now) wife, Amber Burns. Kendrick spent much of his childhood in West Louisville, and loves that his work with New Roots makes a positive impact on his community. Kendrick is happy to announce he is now the Social Media Coordinator for the Kentucky Science Center, one of the top five children's museums in the country. In his free time he loves to draw, eat at local restaurants and practice Jiu-Jitsu.
Confused about how to place your Fresh Stop order online? Check out this infographic, and go to your Fresh Stop's individual page to order shares today! Remember: we can only accept payment via credit and debit card online. Those wishing to pay with cash, check, or SNAP benefits should contact their Fresh Stop leader.
By Chad Kamen, New Roots Intern
“Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” - Lilo and Stitch
Family is a broad term that we all come to with our own preconceived notions and connotations. To me, family is two-fold; there is my “family,” the small nuclear unit I was born into, and the much broader “community-family” of which I am a proud participant. Within this larger “community-family” is my close friends, mentors, and other people who have greatly affected my life; as of last Wednesday, June 17th, I had the pleasure of expanding this collective once again.
Last Wednesday, June 17th, I attended New Roots' first interfaith food justice workshop (a pairing of Living Faith Christian Ministries and Congregation Adath Jeshurun) and was able to be a part of something that is quite hard to adequately translate into a blog post. I could write about the facts of the event (who spoke when, what was said, etc.), but the true success of the night happened alongside the evening's actual itinerary; people spoke. Now, I know vague clauses can come off as overdramatic, but the success of the night was truly that dialogues were renewed in the basement of Living Faith Christian Ministries between two groups of people who have been separated for quite some time. From an outside perspective, people from what would seem to be greatly different backgrounds shared stories, recanted family food-related adventures, and broke bread like old chums. The magic of the night was that all in attendance were actually long-lost friends, not just new acquaintances. Before the course of history took hold and swept these communities in different directions, these people did talk. From the early 1900's to the late 1960's, small Jewish family-owned grocery stores were abundant in West Louisville. One of these very stores, Zeigler's, became one of the first integrated lunch counters in Louisville. With the tumultuous end to the 1960's, these stores started to disappear and conversations between most Jews and the citizens of West Louisville were halted. Now, after almost 50 years of little to no communication, I got to witness the reunion. The faces may have changed, but the connection was still there!
It is easy for us to forget or leave behind the past when it is left to fade away; connections and friends can disappear into the woodwork if we let them. Many of the problems in the world could be bettered, and maybe even fixed, if we rekindled some of our lost relationships. History and chance may play their part, but nothing comes close to the power of reaching out. On June 17th, a simple workshop reminded me of the importance of the idea that family is as temporal as you let it be. Humanity is all one collective family, interconnected by a shared history and DNA. And as a Disney character once told me, family is a responsibility; it is an obligation to ensure that every member, regardless of circumstance, is accounted for and shown compassion.