Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Mobile Grocery Ordinance Passes

This morning, the Council unanimously passed the ordinance I authored that will allow mobile grocery stores to operate in Minneapolis.  This is a small but significant step towards increasing healthy food access in our city, and building our local alternative food economy by allowing more small-scale, food businesses to operate in the city. Businesses that can help support local growers and connect our area farms and farmers with Minneapolis residents.

This amendment came about because potential mobile grocery store operators came forward more than a year ago to let us know that the existing “Groceterias and Portable Stores” ordinance was too restrictive for any of them to operate in Minneapolis.  There are now at least two operators looking to get up and running within the next year: UrbanVentures and the Wilder Foundation.  With their participation, and that of Honeybee Mobile Market and the Hmong American Farmers Association, we came up with changes to the ordinance to make it possible to run a mobile grocery store.

Some of the changes that we made to the ordinance: 
  • Allowing mobile food stores to operate in more locations.  The old ordinance only allowed these businesses to operate in “designated senior citizens' high rise apartments,” which the ordinance does not define.  The proposed amendments would allow mobile food stores to operate in parking lots for commercial, industrial and large-scale residential properties.
  • Creating a new spacing requirement to prevent mobile food stores from operating within 100 feet of a licensed brick-and-mortar grocery store or farmers market that is currently operating, except with the permission of that grocery store or farmers market.
  • More clearly allowing mobile food stores to carry non-packaged fresh produce.
  • Requiring mobile food stores to carry at least 7 varieties of fresh produce, with at least 30 pounds or 50 items total.  There is no produce requirement in the existing ordinance, so this is a significant change.
  • Allowing mobile food stores to sell either from within the vehicle or outside the vehicle, in a farmers market stall sized space within thirty feet of the vehicle.
  • Prohibiting the sale of alcohol and tobacco products at mobile food stores, and limiting the sale of non-food items to no more than 10% of the store’s total stock.
And, thanks to the work of Council Member Lisa Goodman, mobile grocery stores will not be able to sell "non-staple" foods like candy, soda, and chips.  This is completely in keeping with the intent of the operators, and with the purpose of the ordinance, which is to increase access to healthy food.
I want to thank everyone who has worked to make this possible: the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, Business Licensing staff, our Sustainability Director, the Homegrown Coordinator, my Policy Aide, Robin Garwoord, and the prospective operators who brought this to our attention in the first place.  Good work everyone!


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