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New grocery store fights food insecurity

A neighborhood grocery store in St. Paul sells Hy-Vee groceries for under $6.00.

ST PAUL, Minn. — With one refrigerator and one row of shelves against one wall, at first glance, Storehouse Grocers doesn't seem big. 

However, when founder and CEO Carl Johnson rattles off what all is available — rice, taco shells, pasta, pasta sauce, spices, chicken broth, oats, milk, eggs, bread, sugar, honey, salad dressing, pickles, soup, and more —  it doesn't take long to realize there are many possibilities for meals.

"We want to communicate that families can eat together again," Johnson said.

Formerly a cook, Johnson opened Storehouse Grocers Nov. 30 in St. Paul's Dayton's Bluff neighborhood. While a co-op and a few other markets are located within the neighborhood, the nearest Cub Foods and Aldi stores are not.

"For you to get to Aldi's if you live in Dayton's Bluff, you've got to take a Lyft, a bus, bum a ride," Johnson said. "In this neighborhood ... there's families that are little bit larger than most and getting everybody in the car to the grocery store is a real hard thing to do."

Storehouse Grocers' mission is to improve accessibility to food and affordability of food in Dayton's Bluff. Apparently, the problem is widespread. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, nearly one in 10 Minnesota households experience food insecurity.

Johnson, who has served on the St. Paul - Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Commission, says answering "yes" to the following questions indicates food insecurity:

  • Do you run out of money before you can buy more food?
  • Do you run out of food before you have more money? 

"We have kids that have behavioral issues or have problems and they're actually just hungry most of the time," Johnson said. "We believe that we can end every day hunger and that could change the destinies of people that live here."

To keep costs low, Storehouse Grocers partnered with a major grocery store chain. Each packaged food item comes from Hy-Vee's That's Smart! brand and costs under $6.00. Online ordering is available for in-store pick-up.

This summer, customers can expect fresh produce. Johnson says farmers will be able to set up inside the store without paying a fee.

Storehouse Grocers is also unique because there aren't any employees. Johnson is pastor of Faith City Church in Dayton's Bluff and says people volunteer to serve in the store. 

"All of our profits go back into the communities so this is what we call an impactful business," he said.

Dozens of people recently shared their thoughts on improving food accessibility within the next two years in Ramsey County and St. Paul. The Food and Nutrition Commission website says a summary of the community's feedback will be available soon.

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