Minneapolis, USA: Pandemic Era Ethical Eats

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My first experience in Minneapolis was to speak at a gathering of colleagues who were interested in my graduate research. I had been studying historical and modern institutional systems that require accelerated accumulation of wealth and power to survive, and how social and ecological oppression is integrated into that model. We also discussed themes of active participation in and collaboration with alternative social models, and peaceful non-participation in certain other institutions. From that point forward, I was in love with Minneapolis.

What we eat and how the food is produced influences our relationship to both our body, and the earth. Minneapolis is home to a surprising number of locally owned cafes and coffee shops who are defining foodie ethics for a paradigm shift toward healthy, clean, and humane dining options.

Some dining establishments are maintaining higher standards of cleanliness during our current pandemic, without sacrificing food quality. These are a couple of Earth Journey Approved restaurants offering coronavirus-free, ethically sourced meals, who are also protecting their food service staff, and one shout out to a restaurant that didn’t survive the collapse. It is sad for me to read about the restaurant that closed. As we continue to  move through the uncertainty of this sustained pandemic, more locally owned businesses will inevitably decide to call it quits. When it is finally time for us to rebuild, let’s follow environmentally and socially conscious design and model our new economy after the values of these three featured establishments.

Common Roots Cafe

When the Common Roots Cafe opened in the Uptown neighborhood in 2007, it immediately transformed almost one acre of paved land into a garden. That garden now includes 10 raised beds, and the kitchen staff harvests nearly 1800 pounds of food each year from that small piece of land. This food is transformed into seasonal specials, sold at the cafe. Tours of this garden to demonstrate small-scale, pesticide free, urban agriculture are available, and Cafe owner Danny Schwartzman encourages everyone in his community to take a quick walk through the space and to personally see which produce is in season. 

Through the Common Roots Cafe, Schwartzman and his wife practice their values. They support local farmers and track every purchase to ensure they are operating an environmentally sustainable business model. 100% of their meat and milk purchases are local, and almost all of their cheese is both local and organic. Of equal importance is how they treat their staff. As of 2017, they instituted a tip-free policy, and guaranteed higher wages to all staff. Paid time off and access to healthcare are also provided.

They are offering no-contact curbside pickup and home delivery for people who pre-order food online. They also have an outdoor patio available upon reservation. Each service has a different menu with very specific windows of time for pickup or delivery. More information can be found online at https://www.commonrootscafe.com/from-our-kitchen-to-yours

Peace Coffee

Peace Coffee is more than a perfectly roasted and brewed cup of 100% fair trade organic coffee; it is a movement. When it opened its first store at the Wonderland Park location in 1996, it was invested in a philosophy of sustainability. The environmental and business practices launched since then stand behind its original vision. Deliveries are made on a bicycle. Waste from the roasting process is composted, instead of buried in a landfill. The farmers have a long-standing and positive relationship with the buyers. Peace Coffee is contributing to its piece of a more equitable and clean future. 

Although their dine-in cafes and retail shops are currently closed for the pandemic, they offer good prices on single purchases or subscriptions through online delivery. Their website lists nearly twenty varieties of 12oz bags or 5lb bags, in three different bean grinds. Each coffee roast includes links to information about the bean’s source, including the farm where it was grown and harvested. As consumers, we can track and ensure we are purchasing the product of highest ethical quality. To check out their online availability, visit https://www.peacecoffee.com/shop-category/coffee/

Customers can trust that Peace Coffee continues to practice social and environmentally responsible business ethics. It is a certified B Corporation through the non-profit organization, B Lab, which identifies it as part of a movement that redefines what success means for a business. B Corps measure success through their positive impact toward the environment, and in their communities. People and the planet are equally as important as profit. Currently, 2000 businesses across 50 countries and over 130 industries are certified B Corps. Peace Coffee holds a space on the list alongside Seventh Generation, Klean Canteen, and Dansko.

The Bachelor Farmer

The Bachelor Farmer opened in 2011 and it until the pandemic hit, it was one of the most popular restaurants on the Minneapolis foodie scene. The aeclectic and creative menu options took eco-conscious dining to the next level. The owners bought 100% of their power from Minnesota wind farms. Everything on the menu from the Red Wattle pork with radishes, fennel, and arugula; to the vanilla ice cream served over the rhubarb almond tart was grown and produced from renewable energy. Although it was not a vegan establishment, The Bachelor Farmer practiced a “whole animal butchery” program to ensure their meat came from the kindest and most humane sources. 

The Bachelor Farmer received recognition from such outlets as Wine Enthusiast and Vogue. The winemakers place emphasis on bio-dynamic farming, which might be what grabbed the attention of Wine Enthusiast. According to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, biodynamic wine “is made with a set of farming practices that views the farm or vineyard as one solid organism.” Biodynamic farming strives to leave the land in better condition than before the crops were planted.

When they made the final decision to close forever, the owners posted a goodbye and thank you letter on their website. They expressed sadness, but also gratitude, for the lasting impact they created in the community, and for the moments they shared with families and guests in celebration. They also explained how they had been caring for the economic well-being of their staff. Each staff person had received six weeks of pay during the furlough, and had received health care benefits through the end of May 2020.

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