The Corner Store Procurement Project
Taylor Schuweiler, Adam Kay
Food insecurity—when people lack the resources for or access to affordable, nutritious food—is a growing problem in the United States. The City of Minneapolis has launched an initiative aimed at reducing food insecurity in low-income neighborhoods. This program, called the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, encourages corner stores owners to stock more fruits and vegetables. One problem has been that store owners have had difficulty finding the small quantities of produce they need at affordable prices.
This situation inspired us to develop The Corner Store Procurement Project, a project that combines undergraduate-led research and community service. As a research project, we are testing how earthworm-generated compost from spent coffee grounds affects plant growth and nutrient content; we are comparing compost effects to those of synthetic fertilizer or uncomposted coffee grounds. Our main question is how fertilizer effects differ among common vegetables: lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and potatoes. For the service component, we are coordinating with the Minneapolis Health Department to deliver the “results” from our greenhouse study to stores participating in the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. We will be selling the produce from the experiment at market price to the stores, and we will be tracking store owner and customer interest in our vegetables. Once we establish our delivery system, we will be able to measure whether these deliveries of locally produced vegetables impact sales in participating stores. Our hope is that increased access to high-quality vegetables will lead to increased participation in the Healthy Corner Store program.