Feeding the Neighborhood, One Bus at a Time

Feeding the Neighborhood, One Bus at a Time
Sisters Camelot, 2310 Snelling Ave
by Dave Madsen

According to Mary Story’s 2008 article “Creating Healthy Food and Eating Environments: Policy and Environmental Approaches” in The Annual Review of Public Health, a food desert is an urban area in which access to healthy, organic food is limited to certain communities. These communities are therefore systematically underprivileged and left without proper nourishment. Additionally, these food deserts have the potential to create a generation of people who have no idea where their food comes from, much less the value of fresh produce.

Sister’s Camelot (2310 Snelling Ave. S.) aims to revolutionize the food systems of Minneapolis by regularly distributing organic produce to those who work and live in low-income neighborhoods. The collective’s intentions include building an ecologically-focused Minneapolis that is devoted to long-term sustainability, promoting a responsible global economic system by encouraging “cooperation between local autonomous communities,” and dealing away with the barriers and oppression associated with our society’s structure of dominance and subordinance.

In 1995, Jeff Borowiak and five others started giving away free food from a converted school bus. Their Seattle-based operation was then named Sister’s Camelot in 1997 after he and his partner read The Mists of Avalon. In the story, the term “Sisters’ Camelot” refers to a place that exists without the rule of an oppressive patriarchy. Borowiak adopted the phrase and applied it to his operation as Sisters’ Camelot subtly “resists the dominant paradigm.”

Clay Hans, a member of the collective, said that Sister’s Camelot receives about 8,000 pounds of produce on a weekly basis from Co-op Partners and Albert’s Organics. The food that the collective receives ranges from prepackaged whole foods, to bulk or overstocked foods, to food that is close to its marked expiration date. Once the bus has been loaded, volunteers and the food share committee distribute food to randomly-selected low-income neighborhoods. The boxes used to store the food are then recycled and the remaining food is composted in local community gardens.

But Sisters’ Camelot’s food share program is only a third of its entire operation. In addition to sharing free organic produce with Minneapolis, the collective owns a community garden on 5th Ave. from which the cooks in the kitchen bus use herbs for their meals during the warm months. Sister’s Camelot also provides other community gardens with materials for rich compost for local gardeners. As if that weren’t enough, the kitchen bus has recently started distributing meals alongside the food share vehicles and, according to Hans, the operation has a promising future.

Dave Madsen

Redesign, Inc.
2619 E Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

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