Louisville Grows’ outreach extends to all of Jefferson County and Southern Indiana. However, our focus audience is on serving 21 neighborhoods in west and south Louisville. These neighborhoods are most impacted by the Urban Heat Island Effect due to the loss of their tree canopy and are experiencing food insecurities.
A study on urban heat by Dr. Brian Stone of the Georgia Institute of Technology identifies Louisville as having one of the fastest-growing urban heat island effects in the nation. These effects are most pronounced in neighborhoods lower on the city’s socioeconomic scale whose canopies are especially deficient. This leads to higher energy usage and health disparities including heat-related illness and death, all of which disproportionately affect Louisville’s poorest residents. The Urban Heat Management Study commissioned by Louisville’s Office of Sustainability recommends planting trees as highly effective to combat these issues. Besides mitigating heat, trees clean air and soil, absorb stormwater runoff, reduce utility bills, raise property value and beautify the urban environment. While a 45% urban tree canopy is recommended, the average tree canopy in the neighborhoods we serve is only 15-22% and Louisville is losing roughly 54,000 trees per year.
At the same time, these neighborhoods are the ones suffering from food insecurities including lack of grocery stores and access to fresh, healthy foods. Access to nutritious food is a necessity for a healthy and prosperous lifestyle. Research has demonstrated that good nutrition is essential for healthy physical and social development. According to the Greater Louisville Project, Louisville currently ranks 5th among its peer cities in food insecurity with 16.1% of residents experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, Louisville ranks 2nd in rates of children who live in a household experiencing food insecurity with a rate of 17%. The USDA defines food insecurity as lacking enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle for all members of the household.