Karyn Moskowitz is our dream partner: a passionate dreamer with a drive to help people. Today, we’re taking a deep-drive into who Karyn is and how she built a non-profit for food justice.
The Daredevil – Karyn Moskowitz
Karyn describes herself as passionate about everything, especially vegetables. She’s quick on her feet and is constantly moving. A former corporate-america gal, Karyn has now spent the last 20 years helping her community: from public-forest protection and logging, to mining and ranching, she now has her focus on food injustice.
She’s more daredevil than big kid, but still loves to be creative when she can. Her spare time includes traveling, riding her peach-beach bike, and cooking plant-based vegan meals.
The Concept – New Roots
Karyn likes to say that New Roots is a “cross between a family reunion and a fruit and vegetable flash mob.” New Roots was founded on the belief that fresh food is a basic human right; we need healthy food to be happy. Currently, New Roots is working with 650 families and ten local, organic, and chemical-free small family farms.
It started with two years of trying to build farmers markets in West Louisville and East Downtown. It just wasn’t working: farmers wouldn’t come because they didn’t have reliable income, and people wouldn’t come because they couldn’t afford the retail price of produce.
Then, a lightbulb. Why not bring the community together to pool their resources, each paying according to what they can afford, and guarantee profit for the farmers? That’s how New Roots, Inc. and the Fresh Stop Markets were born. They’re awesome community-led markets where shareholders who face limited resources can gain access to fresh food for a fraction of the cost, and higher income families can contribute more and eat yummy produce as well. Families pay up front, and farmers know exactly how much they will sell and are paid upon delivery. These events don’t just have food, but also virtual cooking shows and education opportunities for everyone involved, so that they can completely understand how to incorporate vegetables into every meal.
Non-profits have their struggles. “Even though we do bring in revenue from shareholders, the high percentage of shareholders are at the lower end of the sliding scale (86 percent), meaning we will never be totally financially stable,” Karyn said. New Roots is working to fix this, pooling money from higher income families as well as finding sponsors. Non-profits also deal with limited resources. “It generally feels overwhelming, all the time. But because it’s such a beautiful movement, we’re also happy all the time.” She said she’s lucky to actually solve a problem, not just talk about it. While challenging, Karyn knows just how rewarding her non-profit is.
The Advice – Community and Health
Karyn understands just how important it is to teach people how to eat healthy. When eating, half of your plate should be fresh vegetables and fruit. “Only 7% of Kentucky makes that a reality. 93% aren’t able to due to limited resources and low vehicular access. Our culture of processed foods, targeted marketing, and a history of food apartheid means we face big challenges.”
When you begin to eat healthier, you’ll start to crave it. “You’ll feel like you’ve been missing out.” Karyn tells the story of a shareholder: He came to New Roots depressed and so unhealthy he couldn’t work. Thanks to open and affordable access and many weeks of intense research, he was able to switch to a plant-based diet. Now, he’s strong, off his medications, and is back to work. “How many people are out there that can’t be at their best because of a lack of access to fresh food?”
Karyn also has advice on how to get more involved in your community. “Find nonprofits who have the same views as you, and partner with them.” You should also not be afraid to go out and start a conversation: “start talking to people in groups – churches, businesses – and ask questions about what the biggest needs in the community are and how to be an ally.”
The Pandemic – What’s next?
Just like all businesses, New Roots has had to adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We’ve recreated our whole system.”
Before, shareholders could see all the vegetables and pack their own bags. Each vegetable had its own table and a veggie advocate who discussed different ways of cooking the veggies. Each could answer questions about each item for other shareholders. Each market had a chef that would do a vegan, whole food, and plant based cooking demo, distributing the recipes.
Now, most of those interactions have to happen online. Everyone comes to the market abiding by social distancing and mask guidelines, and bags have to be prepacked for shareholders. Shareholders have still been able to get involved: “Through our new socially-distanced “how to” table, shareholders can talk to one another and check-in on their shares. What are they cooking this week? How can they incorporate more veggies?”
The Connection – New Roots App
Karyn and New Roots were the winners of our Launch initiative. Before meeting up with Slingshot, Karyn said that they were using an “old clunky system that did and does automatically pull payment, but limited New Roots ability to communicate with shareholders and generate timely reports.” The platform was confusing and dull, making it a difficult process for shareholders to sign up and stay connected. Karyn also noticed that most shareholders didn’t have a computer, but they did have a smartphone.
During the development process, Karyn loved working with the artwork and design. “Actually seeing our colors and vibe come to life was awesome. You can pick up your phone to not just easily but also beautifully order your shares.” Karyn also liked how Slingshot interviewed a diverse cross-section of shareholders, farmers, and volunteers.
We asked Karyn if she has any advice for someone interested in developing a software. Her response was: “Go with Slingshot! You’ll also want to get a lot of diverse people and their opinions involved.”
Karyn also wishes the “folks at Slingshot would eat more vegetables!”
Thank you Karyn and New Roots for fighting for food justice in our community.