• Jamie Bain

Regional Bus Trip: Exploring Connections through Planning

On a perfect sunny August morning, nearly 50 people from around the Twin Cities gathered at the Open Door Pantry in Dakota County to begin a bus trip adventure that would bring local governments’ role in food access to life. Bus trip participants representing public health, local planning, hunger relief, agriculture, higher education, Extension, and elected and appointed officials traveled 118 miles together through five of the 7 metropolitan counties.

The goal of the trip, sponsored by the Metro Food Access Network Local Government Action Team, was three-fold:

1) To better understand our region as a whole

2) To see local planning projects and community partnerships working on the ground

3) To build momentum and energy to implement Minnesota Food Charter strategies and increase food access on a regional level

To do this, we saw and heard amazing stories all along the way, including the Open Door Pantry’s community engagement with comprehensive planning in Dakota County, Mdwankanton Sioux Community’s Mazopiya Natural Foods and Wozupi Tribal Gardens, the challenges of potential gentrification and food access along future Blue Line Transit stops, the future food access ideas for the Upper Harbor Terminal Project, Cimarron Farm’s unique partnership with a mobile home community and corner store in Lake Elmo, and Dakota County’s one-of-a-kind farmland preservation project.

Along the journey, PH Copeland provided exceptional DJ and radio host talent as she interviewed public health staff working in each county, to introduce the food access challenges in each area. The trip showcased some of the connections (and differences) between our urban core and our peri-urban and rural areas.

Participants shared some takeaways from the day:

  • “Hearing each other’s stories, ideas, and accomplishments, helps fuel the passion to fight health disparities. Food access is one important key!”

  • “There are so many creative models and people working at the intersection of planning and food access!”

  • “There’s so much to our food system in this region beyond Minneapolis and Saint Paul and so much we can do to strengthen relationships among it all.”

To see a collection of pictures, videos, and comments, search #mfanbustrip in Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also catch video recordings of tour stops on the Friends of MFAN Facebook page.

You’re also invited to participate in future MFAN Local Government Action Team meetings, where the team will continue to work on strategies to support food access through local and regional government. The next meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 18th from 1-3pm in the Highland Park Library Community Room (second floor). The meeting will also be available to attend virtually on Zoom. Contact for the virtual information or with questions!