When Pillsbury United Communities (PUC) set out to work on food access in North Minneapolis four years ago, it didn’t know that a grocery store would be the ultimate outcome.
“We started out having conversations to try and figure out why Northsiders appeared to be underutilizing their WIC dollars,”1 says Adair Mosley, the president and CEO of PUC. “There was work to do in changing some WIC policies, but it also became clear that the lack of convenient access to a full-service grocery store was a major contributor.”
PUC sought input from other community groups and held public charrettes2 and planning sessions for what would become North Market, a grocery store that opened in North Minneapolis’s Webber-Camden Neighborhood in late 2017. To overcome the barrier of high start-up costs, PUC secured public and philanthropic funding and financing.
Mosley attributes much of the success of creating North Market to the food-systems work that other organizations are doing in North Minneapolis.
“We see ourselves as part of a food ecosystem that makes our work possible,” he says.
In addition to resulting in a grocery store, the input process led to a partnership with North Memorial Health System, one of the Twin Cities area’s major hospital and clinic networks, that will increase Northsiders’ access to primary care. “Our community engagement process taught us that people need more exposure to the primary health care system,” Mosley says. “And the grocery store provides a great opportunity for leverage on that front.”
The store stocks its shelves to meet the full range of its customers’ preferences, from sweets to sweet potatoes, but is designed to encourage healthy food choices. For example, customers encounter the produce section upon entry, while the less-healthy foods can be found at the back of the store, not near the registers.
Mosley said that North Market has hired 90 percent of its staff from North Minneapolis. The jobs created range from clerks in the front of the store to management-level positions. Mosley sees every job as a potential pathway to a career, in the food industry or elsewhere.
“Even people working as cashiers are developing soft skills that will be important to advance in a career,” he says.
For more information about North Market, visit mynorthmarket.org.