“Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean.” -Ryunosuke Satoro
We continue to be excited about partnerships and believe whole-heartedly in the importance of working together, sharing a common goal, and collaboration to accomplish great things.
In 2013, we began a relationship with a store owner in Lake Elmo, next door to the Cimarron Community. As we work in the Cimarron Garden to fulfill the shares for the CSA, we would often go to the Lake Elmo Market, a convenient store next door, to pick up ice and refreshments. We met the store owner, Ramiz Saadeh, and over time shared stories and experiences with him throughout the summer. He graciously allowed us to store our produce in his coolers when it was ripe and ready before the shares were to be filled.
One of our primary goals at Our Community Food Projects is healthy food access. Because of this, and the relationship with the Lake Elmo Market, we began to brainstorm last summer about how to get food into the community using the convenient store as a place where it might be available. The Lake Elmo Market is located in a food desert, which means there is little or no access to grocery stores or other stores within a close radius. The city of Lake Elmo is a an interesting mix of high and low income individuals, both of who could benefit from having healthy food options so close to home. We approached Ramiz about the idea of working together with him to provide fresh fruits and vegetables in his store, and he was enthusiastic about the idea. We also approached Washington County Public Health and Environment to help support the project; the folks there were also excited about the project. Through many conversations, meetings, plans, research, and more meetings-the corner store project Fresh ‘n Healthy: Good Food Closer to Home was born.
In preparation, our team worked with Ramiz to make room for produce in his store and selected 10 popular items to have available at an affordable price. Ramiz purchased a beautiful stand to display the produce. We cleaned, prepared signs, and spread the word about the developing project. In early November 2013, we rolled out the 3-month pilot. We targeted the entire Lake Elmo area by mailing a card with a coupon for a featured produce item (bananas), no purchase necessary. The team also visited the store regularly to visit with customers and share our knowledge of fresh and healthy food. There was visible excitement from customers about the availability of fruits and vegetables so readily available to them.
By mid-November, news of the corner store had spread and store owner, Ramiz was featured in Lake Elmo newspaper. Click here to read the full article
At the end of the pilot in January 2014, we had received nothing but positive feedback from the community, Ramiz’s customers and our network of partners on this project. Ramiz had seen an increase in sales of the fruits and vegetables since the November launch, which indicates that his customers are recognizing his store a place to buy produce within walking distance of Cimarron. Our team has deepened the connection with the Cimarron community and Lake Elmo has a whole, by having a presence (physically through store promos, and visibly through signage and other marketing) in a busy, high traffic store. And, we have developed and strengthened another community partner with Ramiz and the Lake Elmo Market. Together, we continue to create access to healthy, and fresh food year round.
As the project moves into 2015, we are happy to report sales are turning a little profit for Ramiz which will help him continue to offer the produce going forward. The Cimarron Garden will be providing Ramiz with fresh garden vegetables this summer from the garden located next door. We will continue to promote and support The Lake Elmo Market in our 2015 Cimarron Community Newsletter published during the spring, summer and fall.