Episode 33 of the More than Health Care: A Community Health Conversation podcast is now available on the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ website and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. Every other week, a new episode uncovers keys to collaboration and holistic health in pursuit of improved health outcomes and lower costs for all.

Since the recording of this podcast the world has changed in profound and significant ways. In fact, that is an understatement given the new focus on social reforms being catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the demand for social justice in relation to the killing of George Floyd.

To juxtapose the content of the podcast, recorded early in 2020, with the reality of today’s state of affairs, Kim Pepper, chief engagement officer at  Pillsbury United Communities, answers several questions related to the organization’s  current actions within their Minneapolis community. Click here to view.

Ask people to describe what a grocery store provides, and most will simply say, “food.” That’s obvious. But if you ask what Pillsbury United Communities’ North Market provides, you’ll have to include a health wellness center, computer-equipped community space, cooking classes, meeting areas, and a place of employment for staff who genuinely understand their customer’s needs. As one part of Pillsbury’s entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes urban agriculture and cross-sector health care partnerships, this 20,000 square foot facility offers a shared sense of community pride, place, and economic mobility.

The positive effects of North Market are broad. “It's brought back a community that was dilapidated and no kind of vibrancy in life around it. And now on this block is a library, and there are other small businesses who are thinking about the redevelopment of their own enterprises to really build and foster community,” explains Adair Mosley, president and CEO of Pillsbury. North Market offers living-wage employment as well as a sales outlet for local merchants who may not have a place to market their goods. “We have over 20 small-business owners who would have never had the opportunity in mainstream stores to be able to sell their product,” states Mosely. “We give them that opportunity, and they're selling everything from peach cobbler to salsa.”

North Market is also an outlet for Pillsbury’s own urban garden harvest. That farm-to-table initiative not only provides fresh fruits and vegetables to Pillsbury’s store for sale at an affordable price, it also provides a revenue stream as the produce is sold to other stores and restaurants. Ethan Neal is the food systems manager who oversees the cultivation and distribution, which includes supplying free food to Pillsbury’s food shelves and community cafes. “We want to make sure that people had access to the freshest food,” said Neal. “We can sell into grocery stores, in restaurants, places people will be buying salad. … But at the same time, that exact same salad is going straight to our community cafes because every single person deserves to eat, quote-unquote, ‘good food.’”

The access to healthy food combined with the space allotted by North Market for health and wellness intersects effectively with another principle mission of Pillsbury. “What's been incredible is that we've been able to leverage the wellness resource space to address a host of other health needs, ranging from mental health to sexual health to interpersonal health,” says Tsega Tamene, director of community health for Pillsbury. And that includes cross-sector, health care collaboration, “This space of the Wellness Resource Center is in partnership with North Memorial Hospital … And within the space, North Memorial has staffed pharmacy technicians, [a] dietitian, and care coordinators who connect folks to the clinic resources within the larger system.”

Pillsbury’s North Market is a remarkable example of diligent work and innovative thinking combined with listening to and understanding what a community is saying it needs. It’s a fearless response by a community-based organization to challenges and barriers that it redefines as opportunities for growth and equity. And there is no doubt that the benefits will extend beyond the store’s current success.

Listen to Adair Mosley, Tsega Tamene, and Ethan Neal of Pillsbury United Communities as they describe how their North Market social enterprise provides opportunities for cross-sector health partnerships, acts as an outlet for its own urban agriculture program, and has brought reinvestment into a neighborhood of newly empowered community members in Episode 33 of the  More than Health Care Podcast  available through the Alliance website or subscribe on the Apple Podcast, Google Play, or Spotify apps
About the Podcast

While many are realizing that collaboration and holistic approaches are the solution, the health care and human services sectors are struggling to find the right formula to realize the full potential. The More than Health Care podcast is designed to help organizations overcome barriers to partnerships resulting from cultural differences, financial pressures, and rules and regulations. 

In addition to showcasing inspiring examples of integration from across the country, featured experts will expose the myths, misconceptions, and shortcomings of efforts to address the social determinants of health through collaboration across sectors. 

This podcast is presented by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Ascentria Care Alliance, and Beech Acres Parenting Center, and KVC Health Systems. Cohosts Jill Huynh, vice president of new business development at Beech Acres, and Tim Johnstone, executive vice president of community services at Ascentria, and producer Erin Keltner, vice president of clinical services for KVC West Virginia, work at the intersection of health and human services, bringing the expertise and practical experience to uncover key takeaways for improving health care and human services integration. 

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Learn more about the Alliance's efforts to improve population health and well-being.