For many, the goal of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is a difficult one to achieve, even when produce is easy to find. But in parts of West Louisville, in areas known as food deserts, finding an apple or a carrot might require a drive across town.
Louisville Grows, a non-profit based in Portland, was started in 2009 with the idea that food deserts could be eliminated and everyone should have access to fresh produce no matter where they live.
Ked Stanfield, executive director of Louisville Grows, says helping individuals make positive changes is really rewarding.
“When you get people in the door that want to make a change, it’s very empowering,” he says. “It’s empowering for people to take control of their own health and decide what is in their food. When you cook at home, you get to decide how much salt, how much pepper, how much fat, oil, etc. Compared to buying food from a restaurant where it’s packaged, comes as it is, you don’t get to make those decisions.”
Today, Louisville Grows operates a dozen community gardens, four public orchards and a farm that’s run by refugees. It also sponsors a number of educational programs, such as the “Eat Local, Grow Local” series that teaches lessons ranging from how to start plants from seeds to the best ways to keep chickens. Stanfield says anyone can make a meaningful change, regardless of income or location.
“This is a very affordable way for people who don’t have access to fresh produce to get fresh produce,” he says. “We feel that buying something from a store is one thing, but when you actually grow the food you have a much different relationship with it. People are more likely to eat fresh vegetables if they grow them.”
Louisville Grows offers a number of activities at its new home at 1641 Portland Avenue. The Healthy House is equipped with a full teaching kitchen, classrooms, and activity areas. Built with a sustainability focus in mind, it features a green roof, a car-charging station, a rain garden, and eco-friendly plumbing, heating, and cooling.
Stanfield emphasizes that his goal is to see the Healthy House busy with activity. He’s even started showing documentary films about environmental and sustainability issues to the public. Last spring, more than 40 people gathered on the facility’s flat roof to watch the solar eclipse.
It has been quite a turnaround for him personally as well.
“I saw a lot of community members in need, and you can’t help those people (when working for city government). I felt I wasn’t doing enough to help,” says Stanfield, who attended Eastern Kentucky University. “I started volunteering with Louisville Grows, then became a board member.”
He was hired as Executive Director last June.