Skip to main content.

How these Louisville companies are helping employees buy affordable fresh produce

Fellowship Story Showcase

How these Louisville companies are helping employees buy affordable fresh produce

Picture of Bailey Loosemore

The Courier Journal's continued coverage of food insecurity in Louisville is supported by the University of Southern California Center for Health Journalism's 2018 National Fellowship.

Other stories in this series include:

Tell us: How do you get food where you live in Louisville?

Dare to Care relocation may bring job training, grocery to the West End

Shelby Park's Save-A-Lot closed with little warning to neighbors

Sorry, we're closed: How everyone is hurt when grocery stores shut down

In 30 seconds: What you should know about food deserts in Louisville

Tuition or food? How college kids use food pantries to help food insecurity

Louisville has a fresh food problem. Can we fix it?

'A real crisis in Louisville': Readers respond to food desert series

How a low-income Louisville neighborhood became a fresh food oasis

How can cities end food deserts? Here are 4 solutions that worked

Louisville families shouldn't be struggling to find fresh food

No grocery store in your neighborhood? Join forces to create one

People can't get to a grocery store easily. So these volunteers are driving them

Would you shop at a mobile grocery store? Kroger is betting on it 

Where You Live Determines How Much Your Eggs Cost at Kroger

How some residents get their food in Louisville's food deserts

Can indoor farming fix food deserts? These Louisville students think so

Kentucky's hunger initiative earns national attention. But thousands still need food

How these Louisville companies are helping employees buy affordable fresh produce

Can indoor farming fix food deserts? These Louisville students think so

Kentucky's hunger initiative earns national attention. But thousands still need food

Volunteers set up a Fresh Stop Market in the Parkland neighborhood.
Volunteers set up a Fresh Stop Market in the Parkland neighborhood.
Photo: Courtesy of New Roots
courierjournal
Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A bag of local organic produce — from fresh corn to tomatoes to broccoli to snap peas — would typically cost more than $30 to buy at any store or farmers markets.

But for workers at two Louisville companies, the same bag will cost just $5 this summer, thanks to a unique benefit offered by their employers.

From June through October, Facilities Management Services and Heine Brothers' Coffee will partner with a nearby nonprofit to offer fresh produce to their employees at a steeply subsidized rate.

The main goal is to encourage healthy eating among their workers — an effort that numerous studies have shown is proven to increase productivity and reduce medical costs. Another is to support the companies' surrounding community, which has few options for fresh affordable food.

FMS, a janitorial company, and Heine Brothers' are both located in the Portland neighborhood, where just two grocery stores serve a population of more than 13,000.

Starting June 14, FMS will host a Fresh Stop Market at its headquarters on Lytle Street, inviting both employees and community members to pick up pre-ordered shares of produce there every other Friday.

"We do some employee surveys, and we're very intentional with some of the programming or work we do to be sure this is what matters to them," said Jennifer Kaufman, director of community and customer relations for FMS. "In one of those communications, one of the strongest things they wanted was access to fresh food."

The Fresh Stop Markets are organized by New Roots, a not-for-profit that works to improve food access in predominantly low-income communities.

While FMS and Heine Brothers' employees will pay $5 for their shares, the rest will be sold on a sliding pay scale that ranges from $6 to $43, depending on a customers' income.

This year, New Roots will help manage markets in seven Kentuckiana neighborhoods — relying on volunteers and a shoe-string budget to serve more than 1,400 families.

Board member Patty Marguet said that if New Roots wants to grow, it needs more support from local businesses like FMS and Heine Brothers', which can connect their employees to the program while also creating a community resource.

"What works with the corporations is they have employees who will volunteer to pop up the market," said Marguet, who owns QtheAGENCY, an advertising company in Butchertown. "We work with the farmers to order the food. We train the companies and their employees how to pop the market up."

Kaufman said FMS employees who purchase produce at the markets are asked to volunteer at least twice during the season.

Last year, at least 60 of the company's cleaning crew employees participated in the program, Kaufman said.

Dennis Lyons, who supervised cleaning at the downtown YMCA for FMS until he was recently promoted, said he's already signed up to buy produce at the Fresh Stop Market again this year.

"Not only did I partake in it, I also gave it out," said Lyons, who would give produce he didn't use to other employees or people at his church. "It was like an extension of the Fresh Stop Market through me. Even though I didn't utilize it all, I was still able to be that conduit for someone else to receive it."

Mike Mays, co-founder and president of Heine Brothers' Coffee, said his company only offers subsidized shares to store managers and administrative employees for now. But he hopes to eventually extend the benefit to rest of the business's 250 employees.

"We're a tiny company, but we're trying to do our part to set a good example for our employees," Mays said. "Part of being the company we are is treating people who work with us with respect and dignity."

Marguet and New Roots founder Karyn Moskowitz plan to meet with local business groups this year to speak about launching new Fresh Stop Markets in 2020.

Any companies interested in the markets can email info@newroots.org for more information.

"Let's face it, when everybody eats fresh, healthy food, health improves, attitudes improve, it just makes sense," Marguet said.

[This story was originally published by the Courier Journal.]