Grocery Stores Built on Nonprofit Business Bases May Stabilize MN Food Desert

grocery-stores-nonprofit-run-minneapolis

P1010765 / Jason Werowinski

January 3, 2017; NextCity

Two neighborhoods in north Minneapolis are looking forward to new grocery stores to break the area’s federally designated food desert status—at present, the nearest grocery is three miles away—and both stores will be nonprofit.

One of the stores, expected to break ground in March, is a project of the nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities. North Market will open its doors this fall, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. It will share the location with a clinic operated by North Memorial Health Care. The second, the long-awaited Wirth Cooperative Grocery, is also expected to open this year.

This follows many years of for-profit stores coming and going in the area. Nonprofits, of course, can operate on a slightly different cost structure for a number of reasons, including the fact that both projects will raise some of the capital through grants instead of loans, thus reducing overhead.

This isn’t the first time we’ve raised the issue of the difference that driving an economy from a nonprofit base might make to community wellbeing. Readers will remember our interview with Douglas Rushkoff wherein he contrasts the extractive business economy with a sustainable economy based on a different kind of foundation:

I think that the nonprofit sector, in particular, is perfectly situated to help us transition to a different economic landscape. You know, most nonprofits think of themselves as doing something good, but what I want to try to make them more aware of is that the nonprofit structure itself, the way the business is actually structured, may be doing more good than whatever their particular business is.

And that’s sort of my basic premise—while the public looks at nonprofits as do-gooders, I’m looking at the structure of nonprofits and not-for-profit corporations as business entities. Because they’re not for sale, because they’re not shareholder- or share value–maximizing companies, what they end up doing is promoting revenue and the exchange of value and the circulation of money, which revives a whole economy rather than enriching the few.

Minneapolis has taken something of a leadership position in food justice, addressing the issue of food deserts straight on. In 2008, it was the first city in the country to require corner stores to carry healthy staples like produce, eggs, and cereal grains.—Ruth McCambridge