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Local black farmers, food justice groups partner to bring fresh produce to Louisville’s West End

The Louisville Community Grocery is acutely aware of the need for greater access to fresh food in the West End and downtown neighborhoods of Louisville. In just the past four years, these areas have witnessed the closing of five grocery stores.

The group is working to reach more than 2000 owners to open a cooperative full-service grocery store in these neighborhoods, one that is accountable to the needs of the neighborhood because the community owns it.

Mike Jackson, owner of Kentucky Greens Co. and Louisville Community Grocery Board Secretary, smiles in front of his hydroponically-grown lettuce that he harvested for the #FeedTheWest efforts. (Photo from Community Farm Alliance)

Shauntrice Martin, a Board Member of the Louisville Community Grocery, launched the #FeedTheWest initiative to get groceries to families in Louisville’s West End neighborhoods after a downtown Kroger closed its doors on June 1. This left thousands of residents, many of whom do not own cars, with an even harder time accessing groceries where no other full-service grocery store operates within a two-mile radius of this predominately Black neighborhood.

“It is absolutely imperative that we as West End residents are the leaders in food justice,” Martin said. “A lot of politicians, corporations, and gentrifiers have big plans for West Louisville, but they are too scared of my people to be on the block and support the plans we already have.”

The Louisville Community Grocery has a strong relationship with Community Farm Alliance (CFA), a statewide grassroots membership organization that has been doing deep local food work for nearly two decades, including publishing Bridging the Divide: Growing Self-Sufficiency in Our Food Supply — A Regional Approach for Food Systems in Louisville, Kentucky in 2007. CFA works to strengthen Kentucky’s local food system, promoting programs and policies that support the livelihoods of small farmers and increase access to healthy food for Kentuckians.

Louisville Community Grocery Board Treasurer Amanda Fuller stands behind 100 packed produce bags in the cooler at Chef Space ready to deliver them to families. (Photo form Community Farm Alliance)

Last week, Community Farm Alliance purchased $1400 of produce from local Black farmers — Barbour’s Farm, Cleav’s Family Market, and Kentucky Greens Company. Louisville Community Grocery volunteers then packed and delivered 100 canvas bags of fresh produce to families in the Russell neighborhood. Families received a free bag of about $20 worth of fresh locally grown produce.

“The more we give people fresh produce instead of processed, we help stretch their dollar with a mindset change,” said Mike Jackson, owner of Kentucky Greens Company and Louisville Community Grocery Board Secretary. “Having the opportunity to assist with feeding over 100 families lets me know that me and Travis’ (Cleav’s Family Market) work has a larger purpose.”

That impact will continue to have a ripple effect. Community Farm Alliance allocated $2,000 to these efforts earlier this summer in the release of the organization’s actions to stand with black farmers and communities.

The Louisville Association for Community Economics (LACE), the nonprofit partner for the Louisville Community Grocery, has matched CFA’s initial investment. In the coming weeks, the Louisville Community Grocery and Community Farm Alliance plan to purchase more produce and pack and deliver more bags to families in need.

“With the COVID crisis drying up restaurant and other wholesale markets for some farmers, we saw #FeedTheWest as an opportunity to put more money in farmers’ pockets and get fresh produce to families in need,” says Kelsey Voit, Community Farm Alliance Organizing Director and Louisville Community Grocery Board President. “Both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing abolition movement propelled by protests against police brutality have really opened people’s eyes as to what’s not working in our food system and it’s gotten folks to think more deeply and intentionally about how to shift power and build the future we deserve.”

From Community Farm Alliance

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