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Above and beyond in Anoka County

Partnership turns local corner market into an essential source for culturally relevant, healthy foods

Chance partnership leads to improved health access for East African communities in Minnesota

Shashe Market stocks culturally familiar foods for East African immigrants and fresh, healthy food options.

On one of his first days as a University of Minnesota Extension Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) educator, Amanuel Jilo walked into the small, newly opened Shashe Market in Spring Lake Park and introduced himself. Neither Jilo nor the store owner could have guessed that this brief interaction would result in a long-lasting partnership that would improve the healthy food environment for the East African community in Anoka County.

As Jilo browsed through the market, he saw the start of a great little grocery store stocked with culturally familiar foods that would welcome immigrants from East African communities such as Oromo, Amhara and Somali. But there definitely were some missing items - fresh produce, dairy products and other perishable foods requiring refrigeration.

Jilo started visiting the store regularly and began to gain an understanding of the market and its vision: to serve the community with fresh, healthy foods. 

Non-perishable food items available at Shashe Market

However, as Jilo strengthened his relationship with the market owner, he began to uncover barriers like the store's challenges in securing Halal meats and becoming an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) vendor. Jilo knew it was time to roll up his sleeves and bring his SHIP expertise and connections to the table. 

Above and beyond the typical partnership

In partnership with University of Minnesota Extension, the Minnesota Department of Health Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) works to build thriving communities and create opportunities for Minnesotans to live longer, healthier lives. Part of this work is building partnerships with local organizations and businesses to improve community health and wellbeing. For Jilo, partnering with Shashe Market presented a unique opportunity to expand access to healthy and culturally relevant foods for East African residents in Anoka County. 

Amanuel Jilo, Extension SHIP educator

Consulting with the Minnesota Department of Health, Jilo offered a great deal of support, not only through SHIP and Extension but personally in ways above and beyond a typical partnership.

For starters, he connected the owner with Health and Nutrition Extension Educator Serdar Mamedov, who has expertise in understanding and sourcing Halal meats. He then worked alongside the store owner to re-submit their EBT application and helped ensure the Shashe Market was approved to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

To address the owners' needs for keeping perishable foods, Jilo secured SHIP funds to order a commercial refrigerator, freezer and signage so the grocery store could stock healthy eating essentials. Jilo's support didn't stop there. When the appliances were dropped at Shashe Market's doorstep, Jilo used his muscle power to help move the units into the store and get them up and running for business. In less than a year, Jilo helped Shashe Market become an essential source of culturally sustaining healthy foods for the East African community. 

Local partnerships improve health across Minnesota 

Like the Shashe Market, thanks to SHIP, Minnesotans are not only gaining access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables, but have more opportunities to live active lives, work in healthier workplaces and get new-parent support. Through committed relationships with community leaders and local partners, Jilo and statewide SHIP teams continue to work to support and sustain healthy, thriving communities across Minnesota. 

Interested in partnering with SHIP to create health in your community? Connect with local SHIP contacts in your area

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