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Minneapolis approves ‘mobile food markets’ for poor areas

Under the new rules, mobile grocers must sell at least 50 fresh fruit and vegetable items, and no tobacco or alcohol products.

Metro Transit bus #841
Courtesy of the Wilder Foundation
Metro Transit bus #841 to become a mobile food market.

Mobile food markets will be hitting the streets of Minneapolis this summer to bring healthy food to neighborhoods now described as ‘food deserts.”

The Twin Cities Mobile Market, a Wilder Foundation project, has purchased a decommissioned city bus they are renovating to serve North Minneapolis and St. Paul’s east side. But before they could bring their grocery bus to Minneapolis, they needed a city ordinance change.

Currently, Minneapolis mobile food vendors can only sell pre-packaged foods, and only in designated senior citizen high rises without licensed grocery stores.

The mobile market will be stocked with fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy products and meat.

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“Our goal is to make healthy food accessible and affordable,” said the Wilder Foundation’s Leah Driscoll.

Under the new rules, mobile markets will be limited to parking lots and private property and will not be allowed to sell within 100 feet of a licensed grocery store or farmer’s market without the consent of that merchant.

“We created an opening for another business model to operate in the city where we can have these mobile grocery stores,” said Council Member Cam Gordon, who worked to change the ordinance.

“We’re going to see another place where you can get food here in the city,” added Gordon, who speculated that many customers will walk to the mobile markets parked in their neighborhood.

“We’re ready to focus on low-income communities,” said Brian Noy of Urban Ventures, which has purchased a refrigerator truck and will be ready to sell groceries at nine Minneapolis sites by July, including the Phillips neighborhood and on the north side.

Each mobile market will be required to offer at least 50 fresh fruit and vegetable items and at least seven varieties. They will not be allowed to sell alcohol, tobacco or tobacco products. Non-food items can be offered for sale but should not make up more than 10 percent of the market inventory.