Urban Fresh supplies locally-grown fresh food to underserved neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky. Founder, Sayheed Asante, pulled together a group of like-minded young people who were focused on transforming their lives and improving their community. With the support of the nonprofit Community Farm Alliance (CFA) and Grasshoppers, a farmer-run distribution center, Urban Fresh now hosts farmer’s markets in low income neighborhoods in Louisville’s West End.
West Louisville, an urban community, is home to 80,000 people including 27,000 children, 38% of whom are living below the poverty line. Statistically, across Jefferson County, there is an average of one grocery store per 6,100 people. In West Louisville, that average is one store per 20,000 people. And many West Louisville residents report poor product variety, low quality, and higher prices. In fact, the Community Farm Alliance conducted a Community Food Assessment in our major urban areas confirming that low-income residents pay 10-40% more for food.
There are many convenience stores in West Louisville, however the Community Food Assessment found that only one-fourth of them sold all five basic food groups and none sold leafy vegetables and very little fresh fruit. Nearly all of the stores sold alcoholic beverages.
On June 2, 2007, Urban Fresh launched its first Farmer’s Market in Victory Park, which is in the California neighborhood, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Louisville. Prior to the Farmer’s Market, the area was filled with residents too fearful for their safety or the safety of their children to use the park.
In just three weeks, residents were on their front porches, children were in the park and citizens from surrounding neighborhoods were coming for fresh foods and entertainment. Each market day brought new entertainment and a local chef who would visit to share his talents, recipes and cooking tips. By the end of the summer, Urban Fresh was routinely selling out of its fresh foods and vegetables.
The second Urban Fresh Farmer’s Market was located on the downtown college campus of Spalding University, where students, faculty and neighbors purchased foods that were not only healthy and organic but locally grown as well.
Foods supplied to Urban Fresh are grown by members of the Community Farm Alliance. Many of these farmers are moving away from a tobacco based income and moving toward locally grown produce as primary crops. Grasshoppers served as a distribution warehouse giving the farmers a place to store their freshly harvested crops. Urban Fresh then brought it all together by connecting local farmers to underserved residents.
In addition to the established markets, Urban Fresh will open two new markets in Spring 2008, one in public housing and one at a neighborhood community center. A downtown hospital has expressed interest in hosting a weekly Farmer’s Market for their employees. This potential fifth site will be finalized in early 2008. Urban Fresh will also be opening a restaurant in West Louisville in early summer. This restaurant will serve the same delicious foods as are sold in the Urban Fresh Farmer’s Markets. It will be located in an area in need of viable businesses and great foods. This is one more way of educating residents while they enjoy the benefit of healthy, delicious food.
To achieve these goals, Urban Fresh is reaching out to youth in West Louisville through small community dialogues for children 8 to 20 years old to create an awareness of the nutritional plight of their neighborhoods. The goal is for these youth to become a part of the change. Each young person that joins the efforts of Urban Fresh not only steps into a new world of healthy eating but also literally brings home these foods and healthy recipes to their families and friends.
The Louisville Health Department has partnered with our city mayor, Jerry E. Abramson, to create the “Mayor’s Healthy Hometown Movement.” This is a city wide effort to create a new culture in Louisville where physical activity and optimal nutrition are the norm. Sayheed Asante of Urban Fresh has stepped up to the plate with an initiative that:
• brings healthy foods to the most underserved citizenry,
• creates a stable market for farmers desiring to grow healthy crops,
• creates a sense of well being within the neighborhoods,
• serves as a conduit for youth to build their character as they assume productive positions within their community as activists, entrepreneurs, and community role models.
These aspects of community ownership leads to a healthy community—mind and body.