The Kentucky organization, New Roots, is using a unique market model to promote food justice – eliminating financial risk for farmers while bringing produce directly to communities. The New Roots Fresh Stop Market (FSM) initiative uses pop-up markets to bring fresh, healthy food to food insecure neighborhoods around Louisville.
“Everyone who wants to access fresh, local, organic vegetables regardless of income, where they live, their age, their race…when you come to the market, everyone’s the same,” says Karyn Moskowitz, Founder and Executive Director of New Roots.
The markets are using local community centers, churches, and businesses to bring a variety of produce to shareholders. These shareholders are not just customers, they are also the volunteers who run the markets, forecast the orders, and make sure everyone is comfortable with the options, says Moskowitz.
The organization is hoping doctors will advocate for whole foods, plant-based lifestyles, but recognize that it may not always be affordable. Community members who have high levels of diet related diseases are beginning to conclude FSM may be part of the solution, says Moskowitz.
Markets pop up bi-weekly in the same location for a 22-month growing season. Shareholders pay ahead of time for a selection of produce, which they pick up at the market. Using cooperative economics, the shareholders are able to pool together resources to buy produce from local farmers at wholesale prices. Shareholders’ payment commitments are completely anonymous and based on an income-based sliding scale. Prices range from US$12 to US$40, but all contributors receive the same share. The approach has earned New Roots multiple food justice awards.
This system also helps eliminate the risk for farmers. With the help of community leaders and participation of the farmers, New Roots forecasts the orders for the entire season each winter, providing a guaranteed income that isn’t seen in traditional market structures. “We buy what we say we’re going to buy. After they drop the food off, no matter [if it is]…raining, or a holiday…people are still going to buy their food,” says Moskowitz. “[The farmers] want to grow food for people regardless of income and we make it happen.”
As the organization grows, securing alliances with other groups will be important, says Moskowitz. New Roots currently works with two private businesses who provide shares for their employees and allow FSM to set up in their parking lots. “Some businesses offer perks such as gym memberships to their employees, but you can’t exercise yourself out of a bad diet,” Moskowitz tells Food Tank, “This is a way to for the private sector to step in – it helps their bottom line because they can reduce turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and [have] less sick days.”
New Roots hopes to replicate their innovative movement in other communities around the country. “[As farmers] build food justice into their business plan, we get to organize, [and everyone] gets to eat,” says Moskowitz.