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Continued: Minneapolis cuts back program to bring fresh food to small city stores

  • Article by: MAYA RAO , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 23, 2014 - 6:48 AM

A study published this month in Health Affairs that examined the opening of a new supermarket in a Philadelphia “food desert” also found that it did not lead to greater consumption of produce, and that other interventions might be needed to aid residents in those areas.

In Minneapolis, offerings at participating corner stores vary widely. Toni’s Market in south Minneapolis has a variety of produce that could compete with any grocery store, and likewise, Minnesota Halal Market, which largely caters to Somali immigrants, has expansive bins of fruits and vegetables. Conversely at the North Side’s Brix Market, some green peppers on display had gone bad and the produce shelf in the back was difficult to find.

The latest phase of the program includes about five stores already working with Minneapolis and five new ones, though others that have worked with the city in recent years, such as Abed’s Broadway Fremont Gas, will continue offering produce, but will have less city supervision.

Among the new stores targeted is Midwest Halal Market at the corner of Portland and Franklin avenues, which already sells an impressive array of fresh cilantro, ginger, chili peppers, tomatoes and other produce. Such items do not turn much of a profit, according to manager Mohamed Abdi, but they draw in customers — even if they complain about the high price.

“We cannot compare to Cub Foods and Rainbow when we are a corner store,” he said.

But what truly pays the bills? Junk food of all kinds, from pop to doughnuts, along with cans of beans that have a long shelf life.

“We make more money on this,” Abdi said.

 

Maya Rao • 612-673-4210

 

 

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  • A customer shopped for ingredients to make a stew at the Minnesota Halal Market in Minneapolis. The market’s produce section includes onions, peppers and tomatoes.

  • The cost of convenienceMinneapolis is pouring resources into replenishing “food deserts,” or areas where healthy food — especially produce — is scarce. But as the city scales back a program that helps corner stores offer a higher-quality selection, some researchers say that fresher food in stores isn’t enough.

  • Sami Abed, owner of Broadway Fremont Gas in north Minneapolis, says soda and snacks are easier to sell than produce.

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