The Twin Cities Daily Planet’s Best of 2015

The Daily Planet’s 2015 was a time of pivoting and changing to a new direction. In our renewed mission to amplify and connect marginalized voices, we are excited to see the following stories resonated with you as much as they did with us. All stories below were chosen based on social media or website analytics to determine the most-viewed and/or most-talked-about content. But even if you take away the metrics, these stories were the ones that dug a little deeper, brought more context and empowered the communities that we serve.

Thanks for a great year. We can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

— The Daily Planet Editorial Team Continue Reading

Neighborhood groups protest at the Seward Friendship Store.

Neighborhood groups and Seward Friendship store agree to agree

It was one of the last hot days of September, and an impromptu group of people gathered underneath a big “EVERYONE WELCOME” sign on the front of the brand new green and beige building for a press conference. The Seward Friendship store was set to open by the end of the week. It was the new branch of one of the largest co-ops in the country, right on the border of the Bryant and Central neighborhoods in South Minneapolis. The area is both home to a critical mass of the city’s low-income communities and long-time home to many of Minneapolis’ people of color.

The press conference was not without tension. Activists from CANDO, the neighborhood group representing South Minneapolis’ diverse Central neighborhood, had spent all summer knocking on doors trying to get neighbors interested in their petition. At the time, earlier in the summer, chances seemed slim that anything would happen.

“We don’t have any leverage,” I remember one of the CANDO faithful telling me at a meeting a few months before.

By July, negotiations had fallen apart between the neighborhood groups and The Seward Co-op. The new store on 38th Street was in the heart of the South Minneapolis food desert and along one of the city’s few historically African-American business corridors. For most of the summer, the parties seemed far apart on the key issues: hiring practices that reflected the diverse demographics of the neighborhood and discounts on food and membership for low-income neighbors. In fact, the two sides couldn’t even agree on what to call a potential agreement: CANDO was demanding a CBA (community benefits agreement) while the Seward staffers had, for a while, offered an MBA (mutual benefits agreement). Neither side was happy with the other’s position, and after a few heated and unproductive community meetings, the official word from Seward was that they were not going to sign anything before the October opening of the new store. Any agreement would wait until next year, months after the crucial hiring had been completed. That timeline did not sit well with concerned neighbors. Continue Reading

Seward Co-op’s Friendship Store and “Community Benefits”

As a longtime member of Seward Co-op, I have been eagerly awaiting the new Friendship Store, which is right down the street. And when I first heard about this Community Benefits Agreement that is being discussed, a vehicle whereby Seward Co-op agrees to commit to certain benefits for the communities most affected by their expansion store, I thought, yeah, that sounds like a good thing. And when I heard that Seward Co-op would be presenting a progress report at the Bryant Neighborhood Organization meeting on Saturday, April 25, I decided to attend as an observer and learn more about it. Unfortunately, I came from that meeting thoroughly confused. So before writing this report, I had to do some digging and find out what was lurking in the background. Continue Reading

Seward Coop names new manager for ‘Friendship’ store

In the United States over the last four decades, more and more people in general and people of color in particular have gradually become familiar with the benefits of healthy eating and health food coops. Simultaneously during that time period, according to the USDA, Minnesota has developed into the second-largest food coop state in the nation.Seward Coop founded their first store in 1972 on Franklin Avenue in South Minneapolis. In their long history, much like many of the Minnesota food coops, very few people of color, including African Americans, have worked in their stores as managers. Currently, after over 40-plus years, Seward Coop has hired Raynardo Williams, a 35-year-old African American born and raised in St. Paul, to manage their second location, which is under construction on 38th Street across from Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis.The MSR spoke with Williams (RW) about his vision for the new location and his execution plans for that diverse area. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | Hmong families tour Minneapolis bikeways, vote to keep streets as is

 To learn more about the possible impact of the proposed North Minneapolis Bikeway, On May 16, North Minneapolis Hmong families packed a van and went on a tour of Minneapolis bikeways.All the participants live on one of the proposed routes for the North Minneapolis Bikeway.The Hmong families toured four Minneapolis bikeways: Milwaukee Ave., Midtown Greenway, Bryant Ave. S., and 37th Ave. N.During their tour, the families saw all three major types of bikeways as described by the city of Minneapolis:Bike boulevard. Bicycle symbols and traffic calming features, parking and street remain. Seen by Hmong families at Bryant Ave. Continue Reading

The Restaurant Critic’s Weight Loss Plan: Verdant Tea, Foxy Falafel, Seward Cafe, and your suggestions

Got any suggestions for healthy, low-fat, low-carb dining?I’m changing the way I eat. Really.I have always wanted to lose weight – say, about 20 pounds – but I have never been successful at it.This time is going to be different.I’m not following a diet, really, but I have started eating less fat, fewer refined carbohydrates, and a lot less meat and cheese. But I am not being fanatical about it – there’s still room for an occasional splurge.  I’m also biking instead of driving, whenever that’s a practical option.I am only a week into this new way of eating, but it feels like it is starting to make a difference. The arguments for changing my diet have accumulated over the years, along with my various middle-aged aches and pains. Recently, an orthopedist told me that my joints would be happier if I lost 20 pounds or so.Watching the movie, “Forks over Knives” was another influence – it makes a pretty convincing case that people who eat a mostly vegetarian diet live longer, healthier lives. (Available on Netflix.) And then there are all the ethical and environmental arguments in favor of a plant-centered diet.But the tipping point for me came a couple of weeks ago, when I saw my friend Jerry for the first time in months. Continue Reading

Community residents want to be heard, not ‘saved’ by new Seward Co-op in South Minneapolis

UPDATED August 12, 2013 – Seward Co-op released a pdf document with questions and answers from the meeting. That document is now attached to this article. Click on the pdf at the bottom of the article to read the full list of questions and answers. The Bancroft-Bryant-Central-Powderhorn Park neighborhoods of South Minneapolis exist in a “food desert” according to the United States Department of Agriculture. A food desert is a geographic area that experiences both high poverty rates and low access to large grocery stores.  In a June 9 listening session, community members responded to a proposal by Seward Co-op to locate a store right inthe middle of the neighborhoods. Residents made it clear that they were not going to allow the Seward Co-op to just “parachute in,” as one resident put it, and save the day.Longtime residents of this area can tell the history of food access in their neighborhood: a long list of corner stores and small supermarkets that did not last long. Continue Reading

Shabelle Grocery’s secret Ethiopian restaurant now offers a lunch buffet

The little Ethiopian restaurant hidden away inside the Shabelle Grocery used to be one of the best-kept secrets in the Seward neighborhood—until recently, there was no sign outside to indicate that Shabelle was more than just a grocery store. Finally, last week, they put a sign in the window announcing their new $8.99 lunch buffet, served Monday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.This is not one of those 100-item strip mall mega-buffets. When I visited, there were only about half a dozen items to choose from, mostly vegetarian: red lentils, yellow split peas and stewed black-eyed peas, collard greens, linguine in a beefy tomato sauce, seasoned rice, a Greek salad and injera, the traditional spongy sourdough flat bread. What struck me was how fresh and flavorful everything tasted.There’s lots more on the a la carte menu, ranging from kitfo (Ethiopia’s version of steak tartare) and rice with goat meat (both $10); Middle Eastern dishes like felafel, gyros, and chicken kabobs; and even a Buffalo chicken wrap and a hamburger (most items $5.99). The breakfast menu includes foule (refried seasoned fava beans, $6), scrambled eggs ($4.99), sambousas (stuffed pastry triangles, 50 cents apiece), and fatira (pita bread cooked with eggs, green peppers, onions in olive oil, $5).Also read Ethiopian flavors spice up Shabelle Grocery and restaurant in Minneapolis (Stephanie Fox) Continue Reading