Karyn Moskowitz

[Archived from March 6, 2009]

[by Phyllis Shaikun]

You don’t usually hear about Jewish women lying down on the ground in front of logging trucks to block their entry onto public land, but then again, Karyn Moskowitz isn’t your typical Jewish woman. Preserving the environment is Moskowitz’s passion and holding back those bent on destroying it is what she does best.

Originally from the east coast, she was studying for a master’s degree in environmental management at the University of Washington in Seattle when she became involved in public lands protection. Respect for the environment led to her involvement with the local fresh foods movement as well. She brought those interests with her when she moved to Midwest to be with her husband, Robert Hoyt. They moved to Paoli, IN, in 1998 and their daughter, Cicada, was born in 1999.

Moskowitz and a partner founded an environmental consulting business called Greenfire, first in Paoli and later in Bloomington, IN. Their agenda was to help grassroots environmental groups. She later moved to Louisville and in 2007 became a full-time business development organizer for the Community Farm Alliance (CFA). “Now my personal passion has become my vocation,” says Moskowitz.

Through CFA she is helping to rebuild communities by creating a local food infrastructure including a local food distributor, farmers markets and other food related businesses. Her particular emphasis is creating those businesses where people have limited access to fresh foods.

She explains that East Downtown and the West Louisville have been designated as “food deserts” or “food insecure” areas, meaning that residents have little access to fresh food and virtually no organic offerings. People in those areas suffer disproportionately from diet-related illnesses. Some 80,000 people live in West Louisville with only two grocery stores to serve them. Low vehicle access means they are forced to shop in markets with lower quality, more expensive produce.

Moskowitz’s way of doing tikkun olam is to make fresh food available to everyone. She says it helps the farmers and helps people eat better; it is healthier for them and also decreases the carbon footprint. Her latest venture is a pilot project with City LIFE, Spalding University and other downtown businesses locations where fresh foods are brought to the workplace so consumers with little time to shop can conveniently purchase them. Metro Public Health and Wellness Director Dr. Adewale Troutman is interested in having a site outside the Health Department and Moskowitz is working with African American and other churches to become centers for fresh foods distribution.

Over the past few months, Moskowitz has been recognized for her efforts. In October she was a food justice delegate, representing Kentucky at the Terra Madre Conference in Italy, where she and 7,000 others met with farmers, students and chefs.

Last month, she and Cicada traveled to the Hazon (Jewish food movement) Food Conference in Monterey, CA. She commented that Hazon, which was founded in 2000, is redefining kosher from a social justice standpoint that considers environmental factors as well as the humane treatment of animals and the land.

Moskowitz returned impressed. More than 550 Jewish food activists, farmers, educators, politicos, rabbis and just plain folks attended the meeting (held December 25-28) to learn about Torah and composting and to take the Jewish food movement to the next level.

Their focus is on advocacy, action and education and the movement is growing. Jewish CSAs (community-supported agriculture coops run by Hazon’s Tuv Ha’aretz) are groups of Jews that band together to buy weekly food boxes from local farms. Last year there were 18 CSAs based at synagogues and JCCs and that number is expected to grow to 30 by spring. The goal is to have 180 CSAs by 2015.

“It was during Chanukah and everyone brought a menorah to the conference,” she said; “we all lit candles together. There was even a kids’ track, where the children made carrot flutes, seaweed didgeridoos, beeswax Shabbat candles, created murals and really saw what a civically engaged person does.” Organizers predict that someday every Jewish school will teach the Jewish values of eating right, growing food right and feeding the poor.

Bottom line, Moskowitz wants the Jewish community to help in the Jewish farming efforts. She has asked Hazon to come here to help her educate synagogues and other groups about healthy eating and becoming activists to be sure all residents have the opportunity to access fresh produce on a daily basis. She notes that synagogue members can organize their own community supported agriculture (CSAs) or Tuv Ha’aretz programs by contacting an interested farmer, paying him at the beginning of the growing season and sharing in the seasonal produce by receiving weekly boxes during the growing season.

If you would like more information about Jewish food initiatives and Hazon, you can contact Moskowitz at kmoskowitz@sbcglobal.net or by calling CFA at 775-4041.

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