Raining on the food desert

by Joelle Stangler, Food Coalition member

With a campus located within a 15-minute walk from Downtown and adjacent to the bustle that is Dinkytown, it’s difficult to say we have a “campus feel” here at the University of Minnesota. Aside from Homecoming, Spring Jam and Gophers game days, there aren’t a lot of shared experiences on campus. As we seek ways to bring students together, there is a proposed solution that may seem outlandish: We need an on-campus grocery store.

Now before you write me off as crazy, think about the possibilities. This won’t be a safe haven for vegans or a secret clubhouse for the health-fiends but a place of community and potential collaboration among colleges. While it’s true there are co-ops and small stores scattered through the area, an on-campus store would provide a convenient location for students while ensuring fresh produce at a reasonable price. As for the colleges, this has the potential to truly be an all-campus project. The Carlson School of Management could provide management of the store as credits or part of a class. The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences might be able to supply some of the food products. Perhaps the College of Design would host a contest for best logo and/or branding for the establishment. Ideally, the store would be run by students, for students.

Headed by ambitious idealist Phillip Kelly and the Food Coalition, comprised of a number of smaller groups interested in sustainability and health, the idea is contagious. After just one meeting, those who came with negligible interest found themselves eager to get the project started. While there were many questions raised and no step-by-step process to get to the goal, there’s a vision and an overwhelming impetus to get this thing moving.

The energy of those involved is tangible and the atmosphere among the group is ardent and earnest. If you’re looking for a project to get involved in or simply a group of people worth working with, join the Food Coalition. Come and, as Kelly would say, “we will rain on this food desert together.”