From Made to Flourish:
It’s a late spring day in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I’m standing in front of the Ravoux high rise apartments, a public housing project. When a bright, multicolored bus pulls into the complex, the waiting crowd outside includes several residents. The Twin Cities Mobile Market has arrived.
For the past two years, this grocery-store-on-wheels stops at Ravoux every Friday at noon, bringing staples, meat, eggs, dairy, and fresh produce to this “food desert” neighborhood.
According to Twin Cities Mobile Market founder Leah Porter, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the fifth worst food desert metro area in the U.S., which leaves thousands of residents without access to a supermarket within one mile of their homes. Porter, who says she knows what it’s like to grow up in a family that struggled to put food on the table, cared about this issue for a long time. She wrote her M.A. thesis about the problem—and outlined how to address it by using a reconfigured city bus. When she floated it with local officials and various community groups, everyone shared her enthusiasm. But moving from an idea to reality required help and investment.
Not long after her graduation, a friend of Porter’s saw a TV segment on the Innové Project, social enterprise competition for entrepreneurs under 35, sponsored by Colonial Church in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina. Through Innové, entrepreneurs could pitch their idea for “common good” enterprise, receive technical assistance, and possibly win a financial prize, so Porter applied.