Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wars Create Poverty and Social Injustice

My face book wall has been filled with rhetoric about the social conditions among the poor in our country followed by political answers of what appears to me to be more of the same. I moved back to my old neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky in July of 2014 because I began to hear of the movement to organize real grass roots solutions to the problems that have been ongoing in my neighborhood during the time I lived there (1955-1970). That time included the last "revolution" that was going to go to War on Poverty and create lasting programs for the people living there to improve our standard of living. My immediate family connections to Portland ended when my father died in 1972 and McDonald's purchased my mom's shotgun house. Most of my family except for my one brother's family resettled into other neighborhoods in Louisville but I did keep in touch with my niece and nephew and their families who still lived there.

The result of the massive spending programs designed to end poverty? Portland is worse now that it was when I lived there. Obviously, these massive spending programs have failed my neighborhood. Why did I move back? Because I saw something wonderful happening in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Louisville - a movement of non-profits, many connected to the churches that have a stake in the quality of life of the people living there - not some agenda to promote a particular religion. In fact, there is an Arabic Center in the neighborhood. Another group that is part of this revitalization is the people in Louisville who recognize the historical significance of this neighborhood and want to build a tourist economy around this or to encourage the salvaging of one of the unique types of architecture that is threatened with extinction - the shotgun house. Being back in my old neighborhood and being part of this grass roots efforts is exciting and fills me with enthusiasm about something that is already making a difference in Portland far greater than any program being touted by politicians running for election to office this year. The newest program is one that is just taking hold along Portland Ave., the major thoroughfare into  the neighborhood that was the first federally constructed National Road. The following is a newspaper article I have written describing New Roots.

New Roots Setting up Business in Portland

It is so exciting to see what is happening along Portland Avenue. First, there was the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery and then McQuioxte’s Books and Coffee House in the front of the building at 15th and Portland. Just recently, Louisville Grows has submitted some plans to take over the vacancy left by the shut down of Portland Recycling which had been a neighbor of the Art Gallery. Last fall, Portland’s first sit-down restaurant The Table opened to an astounding public response. Now, another non-profit dedicated to innovative programs to address food injustice has set up its offices in the space adjacent to The Table.
            Karen Moskowitz, co-founder and Executive Director of New Roots and its initiative Fresh Stop Markets explained the mission (which she believes is more than a single organization’s mission but a movement) of New Roots as follows:
            “We believe fresh food is a basic human right. New Roots works with fresh food, insecure communities to create sustainable systems for accessing farm fresh food we all need to be healthy and happy.” She went on to say, “In a nutshell we are uniting communities to end food injustice.”
            According to Moskowitz, the administrative offices at 18th and Portland will be used to run the non-profit. This includes:
  • Developing resources to fund the creation of the Fresh Stop Markets.
  • Recruit and share knowledge with leaders and other volunteers who share our passion and are also struggling with limited resources and food insecurity.
  • Speak in the community and all over the country on the causes of food injustice and provide innovative solutions *(new solutions, not just retrying what has already been done) like the Fresh Stop Markets. * author’s note
Just what is a Fresh Stop Market? A Fresh Stop Market is a pop up farm fresh food market set up at local churches, community centers and housing authorities in fresh food insecure neighborhoods. The philosophy is cooperative economics. Members who buy shares pool their money by paying for their food in advance. The markets are organized by this community of consumers who decide what farmers to buy from, what they want the farmers to grow for the community and negotiate wholesale prices. In effect, the members of the community design the market and its contents.
            The cost of the shares is determined by a person’s ability to pay and SNAP and WIC cards are accepted. Prices range from $6-25. If you want to be a part of this or find out more you may contact New Roots at (502) 509-6770 or email at
            The closest Fresh Stop Market to Portland will most likely be the one opening in June near 15th and Jefferson Sts. across from Central High School. In addition to the purchase of food products the market will also have cooking demonstrations of how to use the variety of foods available. If you are a professional chef or just a cooking enthusiast, you may sign up to cook at the Fresh Stop this season. Sign ups will be held from 6-9 p.m. on April 17th at 21C Museum Hotel at 700 W. Main. 

This is a model that I believe will work because it was initiated by the people it will serve. 

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