Last year, Saint Paul East Side resident Tracy Sides came up an idea to bring together people and local foods in what she called an Urban Oasis, a place where people could participate in a whole, healthy food system from seed to table and back to soil. Since the idea won a million-dollar Forever Saint Paul Challenge grant, a lot has changed.
Last December, Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op signed a temporary developer agreement with the City of St Paul, stating that the two are working exclusively together to develop the former Hospital Linen site next to Metro State University and across from Swede Hollow Cafe on East 7th Street. Though there are still many steps in the process to complete, the agreement signals a decisive development in a two-and-a-half-year quest to bring a food co-op to the East Side of Saint Paul.The journey began at a bus stop in August 2011 when a conversation between neighbors Sarah Geving and Beth Butterfield turned to the lack of options for East Siders to buy local, healthy, and sustainable food. Within a month, the two women were meeting with other community members who supported the idea and the group formed a steering committee. They created Gateway Food Co-op, an organization dedicated to either starting a new co-op or attracting the interest of an existing co-op that could open a new location and meet the diverse needs of the East Side community.FULL DISCLOSURE: Michael May has been an East Side resident for over a decade and served on the steering committee of Gateway Food Co-op.By November 2011, Gateway accomplished this latter goal and met with Gail Graham, Mississippi Market’s general manager, to discuss hopes for a potential East Side store. That discussion continued as Gateway persisted in creating community interest in the idea, gaining 50 paid members by Spring 2012 and doubling that number by the end of summer. Continue Reading