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Tuesday October 24th 2017

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Making a BIG difference through small “p” policy changes…

ReTHINK Your Drink!

Through the efforts of the Backyard Initiative (BYI), implemented by staff members of the BYI Resource Center, the second City of Minneapolis ReTHINK Your Drink campaign is coming to a successful close at the Midtown Global Market. The campaign effectively established a relationship-building model for working with small business owners from ethnically diverse backgrounds to improve their beverage environment. All three MGM vendors interviewed for this article have made practice or policy changes to their beverage offerings as a result of the ReTHINK Your Drink campaign.

Pol-i-cy…………definition by Merriam Webster Dictionary

1a: prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs

2a: a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions

BYI Resource Center staff members Rose Lobley, Carl Lobley, and Roberta Barnes

The Backyard Initiative wanted to learn more about the experiences of some of the Midtown Global Market vendors who participated in the ReTHINK Your Drink campaign.  A BYI Communications Community Health Action Team member and several staff members of the BYI Resource Center conducted the following interviews with three MGM vendors and asked the following questions:

1. What were your hesitations of concerns about participating in the Rethink Your Drink Project with the Backyard Initiative?

2. In spite of your concerns or hesitations, why did you decide to participate?

3. What do you think about your participation now or what changes have you made, if any?

Following are the results of those interviews.

SAFARI EXPRESS-Interview with Sharmaarke Hashi, Manager

“We want to make money but we are also here to be part of a community and to provide healthy, good food. The relationship with Carl Lobley from the BYI Resource Center also helped us to think about the idea of providing water in addition to the other beverages we were serving. I appreciated learning about the sugar in drinks from a young person like him.

Now we buy cups at our own expense and provide to people if they would like to have a cup of water.  By providing the cups, we were able to track the number of cups of water we were making available to people. Now, in addition, we also sell different brands of bottled water. We call the cups of water we provide “Minneapolis water” (rather than tap water) so it has a name just like the bottled water does! Personally, I drink the tap water, it is just as good as the bottled water.

Safari Express considers this project to be very successful. The young people involved have a great work ethic and we have learned a lot from them about things like infused water. They are doing great things and are growing their leadership. Safari Express will continue to provide water to our customers. Water is life.”

HOT INDIAN F`OODS-Interview with Janene Holig, Co-Manager & Executive Chef

“In the beginning, I had a couple of concerns. First, I was worried that by the BYI Resource Center’s ReThink Your Drink folks hosting an educational table and display right next to our space and actively engaging our customers in a conversation, the idea of drinking water might significantly cut into our beverage profits.  I was also concerned about how folks (from ReThink Your Drink), not associated with Hot Indian Foods, might unintentionally represent our business differently from how we want it to be.

On the other hand, Hot Indian Foods wants to be part of the community of vendors here within Midtown Global Market and part of the larger geographic community. We also very much appreciate the connection between food, health and community and want to be supportive of young people’s participation.  Customers might appreciate learning about the choices they have in selecting a beverage.

My concerns disappeared by about the 3rd or 4th week of the project.  I think the visuals of the amount of sugar in soda made quite an impact. Lots of people stopped by the display and it seemed to have no negative impact on our business. Instead, customers felt like they had an option in selecting a beverage. We hope to switch soda machine vendors and contract with one where water is one of the options we can provide to our customers.  I learned a lot!”

THE PRODUCE EXCHANGE- Interview with Kevin Hannigan, Manager

“The Produce Exchange has been part of the MGM for 11 years and rethinking beverage options has been something we try to continually offer a good selection of healthy and/or organic foods. The Backyard Initiative’s ReThink Your Drink project came along at a good time for us because The Produce Exchange was at a time of transition in both management and in our product inventory. We had no hesitation, it was a slam dunk all the way! People need water so we have always sold water.

Creating a community education project with youth leadership was also a good fit for us. Meeting Miss Rose (Lobley), seeing her interactions with the younger leaders and meeting some of them was also a great experience for us. We saw them staff that ReTHINK table every day and interact with MGM visitors. They were extremely dedicated. A mature, responsible young women was hired by The Produce Exchange.

People seem to be moving away from sweetened drinks. The infused water promoted by ReThink Your Drink was also great for us.  We were happy to sell lots and lots of strawberries so people could add them to their water carafes for flavoring! Our water sales are tremendous and will continue to be a consistent part of our merchandising.

MGM Vendors Participating

In ReTHINK Your Drink–Thank You!

• Manny’s Tortas

• Andy’s Garage

• Safari Express

• The Produce Exchange

• Hot Indian Foods

• Pham’s Rice Bowl

• Fresco’s Italian Pasta Bar

• Moroccan Flavors

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