The past two years have sparked a renewed interest in mutual aid across the country as the pandemic and the George Floyd Uprising have exposed the many systemic flaws in our society. In Minneapolis, the mutual aid scene exploded with hundreds of pop up aid sites, food drives, and nonprofits. The Du Nord Foundation started as one such pop-up, distributing food and supplies alongside Eat for Equity in the summer of 2020 after a fire in our warehouse. After a pause for repairs, the Du Nord Foundation Community Market opened Feb. 1, 2021 in the newly repaired warehouse and has been serving neighbors primarily in the Midtown area.
The market seeks to be a welcoming place for neighbors to find free, healthy food for their table and supplies for their home, using a model that incorporates a mutual aid approach.
Though far from a new concept, mutual aid has been gaining traction in the conversation about food insecurity. Mutual aid is a community-led process of meeting people’s basic needs, where the people receiving aid are the same people that volunteer and inform decisions about the aid being offered. As the pandemic continues, many aid sites, from large national organizations to smaller grassroots groups, have been thinking of ways to incorporate principles of mutual aid into their work and include community members in the decision-making process.
We at Du Nord Community Market bring both nonprofit and mutual aid backgrounds to our work in order to fulfill our mission of “Nourishing our Neighbors.” We define “neighbors” as anyone in partnership with us, including volunteers, vendors, and the community members that get their groceries from us. We differ from some traditional food shelves in that we offer a wide variety of fresh produce and culturally relevant foods.
Offering food that isn’t just free but that is high quality, that people would be excited to cook with and eat is important to me because sometimes when you’re living in poverty it feels as though you don’t deserve nice things. But everyone deserves to thrive, not just survive, and good food is a part of that.
In August, the market partnered with our next door neighbors, Eat for Equity, to provide prepared meals. The meals are often made with food rescue and locally sourced ingredients. Since its implementation, we have given out 488 meals – and more neighbors are ordering them each week. Emily Torgrimson, Eat for Equity’s executive director and co-founder, sees the meals as a way of taking some of the pressure of feeding a family off of neighbors. “I remember asking my mom what the hardest part about parenting was and she said putting food on the table. It’s not just the financial resources you need, but also the time and skill to cook and the mental energy to plan a meal,” said Togrimson. “The market helps people know not just where their next meal is coming from but also that they have tonight’s meal covered.”
In addition to providing meals for the Du Nord Foundation Community Market, Eat for Equity supplies Second Harvest with 750 meals per week, all while running a sliding scale meal box program. The boxes feature a rotating menu that features guest chefs and collaborations between members of the kitchen team. When asked what her favorite part of running the Eat for Equity kitchen is, Torgrimson said it was the collaboration that she liked best. “I appreciate that we have a diverse kitchen and everyone brings their food background. We ask for a lot of improv and creativity. I love getting to work with people that share their skills in a collaborative atmosphere.”
Though the first few months of the partnership have gone smoothly, both the Community Market and Eat for Equity are excited to improve upon what we are able to offer to neighbors and make the prepared meals even more accessible. Currently, neighbors are unable to choose which meal they get, though staff can accommodate basic dietary needs when asked. “It would be great if we could come up with a set or rotating menu because comfort food is different for everyone,” said Torgrimson. To both teams, giving neighbors a variety of options is radical in a system that sometimes homogenizes the experience of food insecurity. Letting neighbors have agency and not making assumptions about what they need is something both organizations strive toward. “People need to receive aid for a number of reasons. Part of providing barrier free access to aid is not assuming that you know what someone needs or what their situation is,” said Yates. “People call all the time and ask ‘Do I need to bring ID or proof of residence?’ and it feels great to tell them they can just show up and get what they need. That’s the kind of world I want to live in, where everybody is taken care of.”
Jae Yates is the volunteer program coordinator for the Du Nord Foundation Community Market at 2610 E 32nd St.
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