New Coop Set to Transform Food Desert in North Minneapolis

A food desert in Minneapolis will soon have access to fresh food and its own community grocery cooperative.

The first food coop in North Minneapolis, Wirth Cooperative Grocery is scheduled to open later this year. It will focus on providing easy access to a variety of foods and, if all goes well, help revitalize the neighborhood and boost the local economy in an area with few accessible grocery stores.

Food deserts, a term used to describe areas where it’s difficult to buy fresh foods, are particularly common in low-income neighborhoods such as those found in North Minneapolis. Wirth Grocery aims to bring food and groceries closer to the people in the community, many of whom have to rely on long public transit trips or finding alternative transportation to get groceries.

Wirth Cooperative Grocery's board of directors president Ana Woodruff and general manager Miah Ulysses. Photo: Tam Nguyen

The coop comes after nine years of work and development by its board of directors and community supporters. It’s built on a model that allows members to own and govern the business.

For a one-time investment of $100, anyone can become a member-owner and make an investment in their community. The coop received a Brick and Mortar federal grant of $500,000 and will be located in a 4,500 square feet location in Minneapolis’ Commons at Penn building.

Ana Woodruff, the president of Wirth’s board of directors, told the Sustainable Cities Collective that she sees the cooperative as a partial solution to the lack of quality, accessible food in the area as well as a great way to push for sustainable economic development.

Unlike conventional food coops, Wirth will not offer solely natural or organic products. The goal is to have the store reflect what the community wants and values so it will offer conventional products as well as organics. The goal is to provide access to different food and try to honor requests from everyone in the community.

As the store’s general manager Miah Ulysse explains, “If the North Minneapolis community wants Hot Cheetos as a snack choice then the store will work towards offering it.”

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Photo: Facebook. Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter

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