Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Farmers bring affordable food to city 'food deserts'

Kentucky farmer Andre Barbour provides cole crops and chickens to people who live in Louisville's "food deserts," which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as "with a substantial share of low-income residents who . . . have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy, affordable food retail outlet." People from these areas pay $12 to $50 every month to New Roots Inc., a program designed to help them get the food they need, reports Jere Downs of The Courier-Journal.

Barbour delivers food about once a week to schools and churches in Louisville, 70 miles north of his farm near Canmer. He is not only providing healthy, affordable food for people who need it but also saving the family farm. Marry and James Cross, who joined the program last year, say people in their area have nearby fast-food and liquor stores, but not grocery stores. "I am into the whole sustainable community thing. I want to eat healthy," said Marry Cross, who pays $25 every other week for between 13 and 14 pounds of food. "I like the idea that you meet the people who grow the food."

According to The Louisville Health Equity Report, Western Louisville has only one full-service grocery store for every 25,000 citizens. "Scarcity of supermarkets directly impacts health," the report said. "The neighborhood in which one lives can serve as a predictor of life expectancy."

After struggling to find reliable customers for his products, Barbour began working with New Roots last fall. The program's founder and executive director, Karyn Moskowitz, said "We are putting our eggs in the basket with him and his consortium because we believe in small farms and minority farmers in particular. We want to grow with them."

Barbour said, "All we are doing is keeping the middleman out and keeping the money. . . . As long as I can feed people on this side of Louisville, I am good to go." University of Kentucky agricultural economics professor Will Snell said the Barbours are wise to use a niche strategy. "That sounds phenomenal," he said. "The local food movement is a niche market that is providing some opportunities for small farms. Anymore in farming, you've got to find a small niche or get big." (Read more)

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