LOUISVILLE, Ky. — As Louisville Metro leaders look at how it will be distributing the $388 million it received in federal coronavirus relief funds, food access organizations are asking to be included in the allocation plans.
"On average, people living in west Louisville will die up to 12 years earlier than people living in neighborhoods in the eastern part of our city," Andrew Kang Bartlett, a volunteer leader of Food in Neighborhoods Community Coalition, said. "And a lot of that has to do with diet."
Louisville Metro leaders said they are looking for community input on how to spend $340 million that has not yet been allocated.
The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery (ARP) funds, and government leaders said they will be soliciting a comprehensive call for projects in the coming months.
Kang Bartlett, who also works with Presbyterian Church USA's hunger program, said the push for ARP funds began earlier this spring. He said the Food in Neighborhoods Community Coalition, which is made up of dozens of organizations working in food access and food justice, is requesting around $30 million, which will be distributed to all its member organizations.
"It really covers everything from the food supply to the actual eaters getting access to affordable healthy food," he said. "It builds the kind of economy that really keeps money in the community themselves. So it's the kind of recovery we need."
Louisville Grows is one of the organizations that would benefit if the Food in Neighborhood Community Coalition were to receive the funding.
Jacquelyn Eklund, the program manager, said the funding would be able to cover the cost of tools that the organization gives to communities looking to start their own sustainable food gardens.
"I think we would see a lot of growth," Eklund said. "I think we would see a lot of more people gardening in the city. And I think we would see the community gardens that do exist really flourish."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced in June the first $38.9 million will be spent to address some "immediate and urgent challenges." Those include COVID-19 related health needs, including continuing vaccine outreach programs; eviction diversion programs; and economic recovery focused on the city's downtown area.
"We talk a lot about being the compassionate city and about equity and this is a great opportunity with the American Rescue Plan funds coming in to put our money where our mouth is," Kang Bartlett said.
"We would like to get money so we can keep doing the good work and so we can keep all these organizations and all these people engaged in doing the work," Eklund said. "It would be really incredible and it would take a lot of the heat off our organizations. It would take a lot of pressure off of us."
People can give their feedback online at https://louisvilleky.gov/government/mayor-greg-fischer/american-rescue-plan.
The city will also be holding public hearings on July 17 on the UofL ShelbyHurst campus, July 19 at the Southwest Regional Library and July 26 at West Broadway Church of Christ.