Minnesota

Minneapolis Is Micromanaging the Food Supply

The city is finding out that more rules don't equal healthier eating.

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Minneapolis has become a focal point for testing out policies designed to force people to eat healthier. Or else.

A law on the books, which voters may very well repeal next month, requires restaurants to prove that food sales make up at least 70 percent of their total food and beverage sales. The law also bans restaurants from serving alcohol to customers who are waiting for a table in the restaurant.

Earlier this year, the city council adopted a City Healthy Food Policy that mandates "healthful food in vending machines, in city cafeterias and at meetings with city-funded food."

The vote was by no means unanimous.

"I'm a little bit mortified that we have a whole staff team that spent god-knows-how-many hours talking about whether or not there could be carrots in a vending machine," said councilwoman Lisa Goodman.

These silly laws hardly appear to be outliers in the city. After all, Minneapolis was the first city in the country to adopt a law, the Staple Foods Ordinance, that requires many small stores—including convenience stores and gas stations—to stock fresh produce and other "healthy" foods. The city adopted these rules in 2008. Violators face fines of $200.

"Now," reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "city officials are looking to double down on their efforts."

The proposed rules would expand the stores covered under the ordinance to include not just corner stores and gas stations but dollar stores. They'd all be required "to stock 30 pounds or 50 items of at least seven varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables…. [and] at least 3 varieties of meat, poultry, fish or vegetable proteins, at least 6 containers of a dozen eggs, at least 192 ounces of canned beans and four packages of dried beans and lentils[.]"

Why is the city looking to expand the program? That's not entirely clear. It's certainly not because it's been a success.

For example, small pharmacy owner Justin Pacult reported in 2012 that participating in the program caused him to lose "about $1,000 in eight months."

Earlier this year, perhaps thanks to reports like that, Minneapolis reduced support for the ordinance. A Star-Tribune article in February indicated that "after seeing mixed results… the city is scaling the program back[.]"

Those "mixed results" include the fact that "stores on average were selling less than $10 a week of produce." At the inflated rates charged by corner stores—no fault of their own, as consumers are paying primarily for convenience—that amounts to a handful of apples per store.

To no one's surprise, "Minneapolis is discovering that improving diets in disadvantaged areas requires more than just putting healthier food on convenience stores shelves."

The state, which provides grant money to support the ordinance, has identified several challenges in implementing the law. University researchers also noted the same problems.

A 2012 study determined, among other things, this plainly obvious fact: "at least 2 key stakeholders must be satisfied for an intervention to last: the store owner/manager and the customer."

Among the many other equally obvious challenges the study identified was that Minneapolis store owners "reported that procuring healthy items in a convenient and affordable way was a challenge."

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded study concluded that "while increasing access to healthy foods in small stores is viable, interventionists and researchers working in this area must focus as much effort on increasing customer demand for healthy products as they do on improving store supply of these products for such interventions to be successful."

Minneapolis grocer Mohamed Wadi, whose market sits in a high-traffic area, tells the Star-Tribune that he's made money by selling healthier options. But he knows others, like pharmacy owner Justin Pacult, aren't so lucky.

"It's going to be a big loss for (smaller stores)," Wadi said.

What should Minneapolis be doing to ensure city residents have access to healthier food? Well, for one it could continue to get the hell out of the way of those who want to sell fresh produce.

"Current city regulations only allow portable stores to sell pre-packaged foods near senior citizen high rise apartment buildings," noted another Star-Tribune article earlier this year. "As a result, no one has opened a mobile grocery store in the city in recent history, according to a staff report."

My suggestion? Minneapolis can best improve its food offerings by taking its bad laws off the books. There's no need to double down.

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47 responses to “Minneapolis Is Micromanaging the Food Supply

  1. To no one’s surprise, “Minneapolis is discovering that improving diets in disadvantaged areas requires more than just putting healthier food on convenience stores shelves.”

    Coming up: Healthy Food Mandate. Consumers will be required to prove to the city that they’ve bought something the city classifies as healthy food each week/month/whatever. For the children, probably.

    1. If rounding up the children and concentrating them in camps where only responsible adults look after them could save the life of even one child, don’t we have an obligation to try?

      1. ‘The other side would like to round people up and put them in camps’ rhetoric is common enough in today’s political arguments, but interestingly the only actual rounding up and putting in camps of thousands of people that occurs in today’s US is the kind that the many opponents of immigration rights found here on H&R encourage.

        1. “‘The other side would like to round people up and put them in camps’ rhetoric is ”

          A joke from south park.

        2. At least the people the “opponents of Immigration rights” want locked up have, in fact, broken a common sense law. You can argue that there should be no borders. Having borders, and laws about who can cross them, and then enforcing those laws according to bureaucratic whim is tyranny of a subtle and nasty sort.

          I think that the immigration laws need massive changes. I also think that we won’t get them until the laws we have are enforced, or enforced enough to cause real trouble.

        3. Interestingly Bo offers zero commentary on the article itself even though it clearly infringes on the rights of the store owners. Possibly because he’s willing to make the tradeoff as long as it guarantees certain progressive rights he agrees with? Nah.

        4. “Opponents of immigration rights”? Well there’s a loaded phrase.

  2. Don’t worry they know what they are doing.

    STOP LAUGHING!!!!!!!

  3. Uh-oh.

    (from Twitter)

    http://tinyurl.com/mwdutws

    1. They got Bowling alleys in Brooklyn?

    2. So now the TARDIS is fucked?

  4. This is what happens when liberals are in control. They are morons.

    1. “This is what happens when liberals people are in control. They are morons.”

      Fixed.

  5. “Current city regulations only allow portable stores to sell pre-packaged foods near senior citizen high rise apartment buildings,”

    I know you’re just passing long a quote, but once again I have trouble figuring out the meaning in one of your articles. Does the above mean they can sell other goods in other places, but not near sr. citizen hi-rises? Or that they can sell only such goods, and only near such housing?

    Anyway, mandates like the ones farther up in the article are nuts. Dollar stores??! The ones I’m familiar with don’t have refrigerators, and even absent foods requiring refriger’n, I’m sure they wouldn’t want to deal w bins of perishables. Who would go to such stores to shop for produce, anyway?

  6. WTF? Why do they need fresh produce in stores? We spent $600K to teach them to garden.

    I should point out that focusing on “important” shit like this allows the Minneapolis pols to forget about all the fake stuff like potholes, taxes and the horrible results of their schools.

  7. So basically, the story is that the proglodytes have assumed control of Minneapolis, correct?

    1. St. Paul, Detroit, whatever.

    2. Yes, and as his Holiness noted above, completely fucked up the schools, government and roadz! We’re not Detroit or Chicago yet, but the dumb fucks are trying hard.

      1. You sound as though you’re unsatisfied.

        1. I love it! Nicely done, EDG.

      2. How can you argue with such stunning success? MPS has a graduation rate nearly up to Lake Wobegon standards! Just imagine the glorious success we could have if we properly funded the educational system above the current nearly $20k per pupil.

        Moving out of Minneapolis has been a truly liberating experience. I recommend it highly.

  8. OT
    UC professor:
    “My response is always, why not eat dog pee?” he said, noting that dog urine is sterile, nontoxic and easily washed off. “The pesticides on greens you buy at the store are far worse for you than dog pee.””
    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/…..846111.php

    He eats weeds picked from the sidewalk margins, and I’m sure he has data to support his claim, since he tested every dog that peed on them, and I know he’s certain no dog (or human) shit on them.
    This guy is living on my money; I want to get him fired.

    1. Gross and harmful are sometimes overlapping but not synonymous concepts, that’s the error in the professor’s ‘thinking’

    2. You know who else prefers dog pee?

      1. Other dogs?

      2. My cat?

        “Damn it Clive, stay away from… No! Stop DOING that! You can’t be that thirsty! “

    3. and I’m sure he has data to support his claim, since he tested every dog that peed on them, and I know he’s certain no dog (or human) shit on them.

      I wouldn’t challenge him on that. He’s the chair of the Stats department and probably secured a multi-million dollar grant to do just that.

  9. Gringos are stark raving mad. Glad I made my move to a more civilized country, well south of the border.

    1. I know it’s facetious but it does seem gringos act insane around food.

      Latins/Mediterranean folk here or in Europe don’t have these silly fears of food.

      1. “Latins/Mediterranean folk here or in Europe don’t have these silly fears of food.”

        Rufus, try some GMO products.

      2. Latins/Mediterranean folk here or in Europe don’t have these silly fears of food.

        You’ve pretty clearly never actually been to Europe.

        The only people more obsessed with food “purity” and what food “means” than vegans are Eurotrash.

        Ask any European about “processed” foods and expect to enjoy several hours of outrage.

  10. The law also bans restaurants from serving alcohol to customers who are waiting for a table in the restaurant.

    Now, they’ve gone TOO FAR.

  11. Minneapolis has become a focal point for testing out policies designed to force people to eat healthier. Or else.

    Land of the ‘free’, or something.

  12. Has nobody in the entire city had the balls to lawyer up and tell them to fuck off?

    1. If you have standing, you might have difficulty with your next health department inspection.

  13. I am a minneapolis resident and wanted to share this article with my council woman, Lisa Bender, but to do so on her FB page meant either sending a private message or posting it as a reply to her own posts. I guess I can also schedule a private by appointment only meeting with her as well. So much for being able to easily communicate with my direct representatives that I hate these laws and they should not make them worse. Not that I’m in the majority on these crazy ideas anyway.

    1. Leave. It’s really not that hard (not like having to even leave the state). As long as you avoid crossing a major river you can find liberation only 20min away. For me even the former was more than worth it.

  14. Carrots. In vending machines. That’s civilization! Without taxes and regulations, it wouldn’t exist!

    1. Think of all the poor little bunnies…

  15. I’m surprised no merchant has set up a basket of the most non-perishable qualifying foods (potatoes?) and priced them at $1000/pound to reduce the restocking interval.

    1. In Cinti, dear ol’ dad used to stop at a bar for a beer while taking care of chores and I might well be riding along.
      He warned me against the hot-dogs on the rolling cookers; Cinti laws required food to be ‘served’ to qualify the bars for some standing or other and those ‘dogs had been there since the Hoover administration.

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