New Roots is a food justice organization igniting community power for fresh food access. The fruit of their labor are Fresh Stop Markets, fresh food markets that pop up biweekly in fresh food insecure communities. Their unique sliding scale means that everyone can participate and come together around the pursuit of fresh, local, organic food for all. Collecting payment ahead of time from their community of shareholders means that small organic family farms get a guaranteed market and sustainable income.
Three years ago, in partnership with the Gendler Grapevine Project, New Roots implemented a community organizing strategy to engage the Jewish community of Louisville in their local food justice movement. New Roots had already made a large impact in the non-Jewish, mostly African American community, creating leadership opportunities and generating excitement around local, organic agriculture. However, engaging the local Jewish community and their relationship with the Gendler Grapevine Project created a turning point for New Roots.
There were many discussions from the bima and church pulpits about the benefits of pursuing food justice (tzedakah) over charity, and how well that fits in with their shared religious values and scriptures. They were able to hold space for difficult interfaith conversations and build relationships across religion and race in an historically segregated city. A focus on Jewish youth turned into dedicated volunteer hours, b’nai mitzvah projects, J Serve food justice workshops, changes in eating habits, and true leadership.
They created two new interfaith Fresh Stop Markets—the Parkland Fresh Stop Market at a black Baptist church in Louisville’s West End, and the new Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ the J in Louisville’s East End. The Gendler Market is one of New Roots most successful markets, with an average of close to 80 diverse families—a majority who struggle with limited resources, Jewish and non-Jewish—and a dedicated group of volunteer shareholder leaders who come to the JCC biweekly for 26 weeks to enjoy the food and community. Many of their Jewish shareholders have turned into sustainable donors and are helping us turn their funding stream from largely foundation investment into a more sustainable individual donor base.
Now that they have a model for Jewish community engagement in food justice, they are going to spread this grapevine and pollinate other communities in their region.
The goals of their capstone project include spreading Jewish food justice in two other cities with JCCs in the Ohio River Valley Region. They will do this by conducting a series of small food justice workshops/discussions with leaders in this community, featuring the works of Rabbi Gendler. They will host visits for the Ohio River Valley Region communities, and develop a plan to spread food justice into the region’s Jewish communities, either through Fresh Stop Markets or another channel that fits in with the communities’ hopes and dreams for their future.
By the end of year two, their new leadership teams will work with New Roots to create relationships with Jewish leaders in two other communities in the Ohio River Valley Region.