Response to ‘New staple food ordinance unwise’

In a recent editorial, “New staple food ordinance unwise,” the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board called a proposed Minneapolis City Council ordinance “misguided.” There are many University of Minnesota faculty members who strongly disagree.

The revised ordinance — which would require grocery-licensed businesses to carry set amounts of certain staple foods — will help address inequity in access to healthy food, providing a greater amount of options for city residents who may only have access to corner stores, gas stations, dollar stores and pharmacies, where options are limited. Given that the food we eat significantly impacts our health, access to healthy food represents an important health issue, as well as a critical social justice issue, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color.

We strongly support the proposal to modify the existing Minneapolis Staple Foods Ordinance. The new standards were developed in close collaboration with city health inspectors and with feedback from small business owners. The intent is to minimize the burden on business owners, and the Minneapolis Health Department has developed a comprehensive technical assistance package to support stores in successfully complying with the ordinance requirements.

Both city staff and Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon have done extensive outreach with store owners to ensure that these new requirements will work for them, and this collaborative approach seems to have worked. Several corner store owners spoke or submitted letters in favor of this ordinance change at the public hearing, and no store owners came forward to publicly oppose it.

Developing policies that improve access to healthy foods has been a key recommendation issued by leading scientific health organizations to address pressing health issues like obesity. The University of Minnesota School of Public Health, continuing a long tradition of cutting-edge research on obesity prevention and health promotion, is in line to receive federal grant funding to evaluate the impact of this policy change.

This work being done in Minneapolis is consistent with the Minnesota Food Charter. Passage of the proposed ordinance will result in the city implementing Food Charter strategies at the local level aimed at increasing access to affordable, safe and healthy food, which we hope will have the net effect of inspiring other communities to do the same.