Where it all began...
BrightSide Produce is an economically sustainable business model that makes fresh produce more available in low-income urban neighborhoods. It was founded in June 2014 as a collaboration between the University of St. Thomas and Community Table Co-op to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to corner stores in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The core operation involves a team of neighborhood youth and university students who make regular deliveries to corner stores in under-served areas. In the summer of 2017, BrightSide launched its second location, focused on providing fresh produce to small food stores in National City, CA, in collaboration with San Diego State University.
Corner stores in under-served areas of Minneapolis and San Diego did not have viable distribution options for produce… until now!
Produce distributors generally do not provide viable service options for corner stores in low-income neighborhoods. They require minimum orders or have high prices. Because of this, corner store owners often buy produce at grocery stores and restaurant wholesale suppliers and then resell it at higher prices. That takes time and money, and the result is second-hand produce for sale at high prices in a challenging sales environment.
A fully self-funding model
The BrightSide Produce Distribution model overcomes a key challenge faced by many community initiatives – it funds itself. BrightSide is a sustainable, self-funding model that engages and sells produce to multiple community groups. In Minneapolis, produce is first delivered to corner stores. Then, produce that is left over from corner store sales is sold to University students, faculty, staff, and supporters through a “Buyers Club” program. Proceeds from these sales go to BrightSide’s youth employees. BrightSide activities are incorporated into academic programs. BrightSide has been the basis for a Communication class, an English class, a Social Work thesis, and a public health research program. By making food insecurity tangible, BrightSide helps university students develop the empathy they need to make lasting social contributions.