By Karyn Moskowitz
New Root thrives on partnerships. Partners can take many forms: They may be coming from the private sector, and purchasing shares for their employees, like Portland Fresh Stop Market founders FMS and Heine Brothers. Or, they may come from the nonprofit sector, like Sowing Seeds with Faith, who purchases shares for the students they tutor. They may be clinics, like the Smoketown Family Wellness Center, who purchases shares for their pediatric clients and their families. Finally, they can be faith-based. This story is about our partnership with Epiphany Catholic Church in Anchorage, Kentucky.
2012 seems so long ago. But I can very distinctly remember when I first met Chris Chase. He was at a Bingham Fellow information meeting at Leadership Louisville in downtown Louisville. His story touched me. He was explaining that he wanted to become part of this cohort because he was a Big Brother, and his Little Brother lived in the Russell Neighborhood, which has been experiencing food apartheid, with low access to sources of affordable, healthy food. Our topic that year was “Creating a Healthy Food Culture.”
After our ten months together, and our final presentation was complete, we were standing at the buffet table. I went to say goodbye, but Chris said, “No, I will not abandon you and New Roots. I’m in this for the long haul.” At that point, New Root was only three years old. We didn’t have full-time paid staff, and were almost 100 percent volunteer driven. I had a full-time job in another sector completely. We couldn’t afford insurance. We were running Fresh Stop Markets, building leadership, but our business, the business of New Roots, needed help.
Chris signed up to be our board chair, and as they say, the rest is history. For six years he was our fearless board leader, taking us into a safer space, with an office we adore at The Table Restaurant, a barebones but mighty staff, while still retaining our grassroots, well, roots.
At the same time, Chris introduced New Roots to his beloved Epiphany Catholic Church. New Roots and Epiphany first became partners seven years ago with a small grant from the 10 percent committee. This past year, we have grown into a full partnership, with a very generous $10,000 donation and members becoming more involved. Epiphany was able to fund the activities of one of our eight Louisville-based Fresh Stop Markets, our Berrytown at First Baptist Church of Anchorage. Chris continues to support New Roots, including recruiting members of his beautiful family, while at the same time running Discernity, a local company.
Recently, I gave a talk at Epiphany, that was recorded and seen by 900 people in real time, and 50 since becoming posted on Youtube. You can watch it here. I am providing a transcript of my talk below. Although New Roots is not a faith-based organization, many of our leaders are very faithful, including me. I hope you enjoy me sharing some of my Jewish faith with you. I have included a yummy Ashkenazi Jewish recipe below, because, why not.
Speech Epiphany Catholic Church, January 10, 2021
Good morning. I am thrilled to be introduced by one of my heroes, Chris Chase, and honored to be here today with all of you at Epiphany.
This year, despite all the challenges of distributing fresh food on the front lines, New Roots continued to grow, connecting 715 families to three organic small Kentucky family farms and seven orchards. The majority of the families face extreme poverty and would not have been able to access this food if not for our efforts.
New Roots and Epiphany first became partners seven years ago with a small grant from the 10 percent committee. This past year, we have grown into a full partnership, with a very generous $10,000 donation and members becoming more involved. Epiphany was able to fund the activities of one of our eight Louisville-based Fresh Stop Markets, our nearby Berrytown at First Baptist Church of Anchorage. Our markets are fresh food markets that pop up biweekly during the growing season in neighborhoods, like Berrytown, that are experiencing food insecurity. either because the grocery store and in particular, fresh food at the grocery store or farmers’ market is not within physical or financial reach. Each shareholder family contributes what they can toward the cost of paying our farmers a fair price for their produce. This sliding scale makes it possible for everyone to participate, and some of you have purchased shares at the higher end of our sliding scale. Some, like Mary Kaye, diligently delivered shares to a family that had lost their income and therefore vehicle due to the pandemic, all the way to La Grange. When I recently thanked her for her service, she replied, not, yes it was a shlepp, but, it was a beautiful drive.
My favorite thing about the Fresh Stop Market model is that everyone gets the same delicious bag of fresh organic local produce regardless of what they pay. The markets are all volunteer driven by our shareholders and small staff. Every shareholder has “skin in the game,” and possesses the dignity that they were able to contribute toward our goal of fresh food for all. I get a lot of spiritual strength in the fact that everyone involved, across our city, is pooling their time and money to help each other eat healthy.
As some of you know, I am a practicing Jew. I get spiritual inspiration from our weekly reading from the Torah and this week is no different. Va-Era, which is Hebrew for “and I appeared,” is the first word that G-d speaks in the parashah, a chapter at the beginning of Exodus. Here we read of when G-d comes to Moses and instructs him to tell the Israelites that he will free them from slavery and bondage. But Moses reports back, first, that he should not be the one to do this because of his speech challenges, and then, after overcoming that, that the Israelites would not listen.
The Torah explains that the Israelites did not listen to Moses for two reasons. One being a “shortness of spirit.” This is sometimes translated as “impatience.” The process of liberation requires great patience and discipline to take the small, necessary steps that will not happen over- night but will come in time. Recently, an old friend emailed me and wrote “your experience demonstrates that community organizing has to be a long-term commitment.” One has to continue to push outside of our comfort zones and consistently show up in communities where we have never been.
The Torah says, HARD SLAVERY IS THE SECOND CHALLENGE to the kind of listening that could lead us to freedom. We can become so tied to our work that our busy-ness is the driving force forming our identity. In this atmosphere, we can’t stop long enough to listen. The barrage of stress from this pandemic and everyday life prevents us from receiving the flow of grace that might move us out of bondage and toward becoming active in our community.
The parsha goes on to describe the biblical plagues. When we witness the modern-day equivalent of plagues, one of the most egregious being food injustice, after we have recovered from the initial shock that 1 out of 5 of us here in Louisville are experiencing food insecurity, our hearts tend to close in complacency. We are exhausted with our work, chores, school, children. We seem to get used to the world in its imbalance and possibly even harden our hearts, just like Pharaoh.
I would like to challenge all of us to keep our hearts open in the face of the suffering we may hear or see around us. I believe the best way for us to face these challenges is to tear off small pieces and focus on hearts and minds, one at a time. We can be like Moses and overcome our initial hesitation, move from kvetching or complaining about the issue, which is human, to acting, which is divine.
Epiphany follows this path when you give out baskets to families at Thanksgiving. This year we partnered with Polly and others to put flyers for the Berrytown Fresh Stop Market in every basket. We received two calls from families excited to get involved. One has already signed up to get shares for the 2021 growing season. Hearts and minds, one at a time.
This focus on each individual and family, instead of inaction that may come from constantly hearing the harrowing statistics Chris mentioned, is at the core of our work at New Roots.
The stories, such as this one from one of our Berrytown shareholders, Mrs. K, an immigrant from India, in her 80s, keep us inspired. Ms. K pays for her Fresh Stop Market share with SNAP Benefits or Food Stamps. She pays only $6 for $40 worth of produce, thanks to philanthropy and the sliding scale. She reports that her favorite vegetable this year was Brussel sprouts, and let me know, “I had never seen Brussel sprouts on a branch, the way I got in my share. These are not available in India. I pan roasted them with olive oil, garlic and sea salt. Yum!” And, from the consistent supply of local, organic food, she noticed that—wait for it Louisvillians—her seasonal allergies have just about disappeared.
So how can everyone get involved? Last year we had to limit the number of shares from higher income shareholders due to limited supply and increased demand from families with limited resources. This year we would like to open it up to more Epiphany parishioners and have set a goal of twenty families who can purchase biweekly shares for $40. It would be great if everyone can become attached to the Berrytown Market, however, you may want to come to other areas of the city, showing up where you may never have been before, and making new friends. This year our new mobile app, donated by Chris Chase’s friends from YSlingshot, has made jumping around much easier. Please email your interest to Ms. Polly for more information and she will send you our way. We also need new board members who can help us fundraise, our most urgent need. Our second most urgent need is getting the word out that we have fresh food for those who otherwise could not afford it. Please help us spread the word. Like New Roots and Fresh Stop Markets on social media to keep up to date and keep your eye out for our 2021 Food Justice virtual Workshops set to begin in March. Thank you for your time and support. Sending love to you all.
Tofu Paprikash, a nod to my Hungarian Jewish heritage plus my new whole-food, plant-based lifestyle
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil (or other oil of your choice)
- 1 lb extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 small fresh pepper, green/red/yellow, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon hungarian or smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons flour of any kind
- 1/2 cup unsweetened, nondairy milk
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil.
- Add cubed tofu, and cook until browned. ~ 5 minutes.
- Remove tofu from skillet, and set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk nondairy milk and flour together. Set aside.
- Add chopped onion, peppers, and tomato, and cook 3 minutes.
- Add paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder for a minute, being careful not to burn.
- Add vegetable broth.
- Whisk in coconut milk mixture, and bring to a bowl, stirring constantly.
- Cook until mixture is thickened. Add tofu, and reduce heat to simmer.
- Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over noodles, zucchini zoodles, or rice.