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MN Grocery Store Tries Volunteer Model to Reduce Hunger

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Studies have shown a lack of access to healthy foods leads to higher rates of chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes. (Adobe Stock)
Studies have shown a lack of access to healthy foods leads to higher rates of chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes. (Adobe Stock)
January 27, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Groups that fight hunger say they're seeing more need for food assistance in the pandemic, and they hope "nutrition security" is part of any effort to increase access.

In Minnesota, one business is trying a unique approach that puts people before profits.

Kurt Vickman, founder of Good Grocer, a volunteer-driven supermarket in South Minneapolis, said the "Good Grocer" model centers around having 90% of staff as hired volunteers, vastly reducing labor costs.

It allows the store to offer a 20% discount for those who sign up for the work, and it will fund a separate store where each week, local residents who qualify can purchase healthy foods at a greater discount.

"The heartbeat and mission of Good Grocer is to transform the food system to make fresh, natural foods accessible and affordable to everyone in the community," Vickman explained.

Aside from rising food costs, the area in which the store is located saw many commerce options disrupted by social unrest following the police killing of George Floyd last summer.

Vickman operated a smaller version of the store several years ago, but said it was forced to close due to the Interstate 35W expansion.

Kelly Coughlin, dietician at the People's Center in Minneapolis and volunteer for the American Heart Association, said efforts like this help call attention to the lack of nutritional options for folks in marginalized communities.

"You know, you go to a fast food place and you can get a quite a lot of food for not very much money, yet is that supporting someone's health?" Coughlin inquired.

She pointed to research from the Heart Association that links food insecurity with higher rates of a common type of heart disease.

Coughlin said other models being tried should get more support, such as community clinics providing healthy food as "prescriptions" for at-risk patients with limited means.

The People's Center it's working on these ideas, including adding a food pantry for its clients.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Minnesota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, and Smoking Prevention. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN