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BrightSide at UMN

by Clara Holder, 2019 Acara Fellow


My name is Clara, and I’m a senior who’s been involved with Acara for the past year. Through my time working with BrightSide at UMN as an Acara Fellow, I’ve learned so much and am excited to share this work with you.

BrightSide at UMN is the expansion of local nonprofit BrightSide Produce to the UMN campus and neighborhoods surrounding it, including Como and Cedar Riverside. We strive to reduce food insecurity by increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in a sustainable way. We work directly with communities, store owners, and students to focus on what they need and how to best incorporate this into their lives.

For students, we offer a Buyer’s Club produce subscription that allows them to purchase produce at wholesale cost, with pick-up located 

conveniently on campus. This allows for incorporation of healthy foods into their weekly schedule, offered at an affordable price with variety and regularity. The subscription operates year-round with a weekly charge to their cards.

For supplementing the produce offers in communities, we sell produce to Corner Stores in communities that lack grocery stores. We create partnerships with small business owners who are integral components of their communities, supporting their work and improving their customers’ experiences. 

It’s quite easy to distill this whole process into the end result – that we are here, with a successful enrollment in Buyer’s Club every week, with consistent student and faculty buy-in, and deliveries to corner stores across the Cities that consistently surpass what we expect – but it’s never quite as easy as we’d like it to be. And yet, we’ve seen so much success and built a great little community here on campus. 

Brightside at UMN consists of passionate students and faculty advisors who have put access to healthy food at the forefront of issues they want to tackle during their time here. We’ve had potlucks throughout the semester where students crowd around vats of soup, salads of kale with olive oil and lemon, and warm pumpkin bread, as the din quiets around the injustices of food insecurity facing college students and community members alike. We’ve built a coalition of like-minded student groups coming from various backgrounds, dedicated to spreading the word about our power as a collective and what we’re doing to change the world in which we live. We’ve gone on produce pickups at massive grocery wholesalers every week, chatting with those who put together our pallets of produce. We’ve built relationships with the University of St. Thomas students and young people of North Minneapolis who work to make our Corner Store weekly deliveries successful. 

It is a lot. It is, at times, too much. But seeing the tangible impact that we have, and challenging the current system of food and inequities surrounding health feels encouraging. The word is getting out, and I am proud to be a part of the change. 

I appreciate the opportunity to make mistakes, to be advised and supported, and to actualize the things that we are passionate about and hope to learn so much from. The privilege to make mistakes and yet also to do our best can’t be overstated. I hope it’s worth it in the end. 

If you’re interested in being involved with BrightSide at UMN: come hang! We’ll have weekly meetings starting again next semester, once a week in the evenings (date and time TBD). There is a continuous amount of work to do, to continue to strive for more. We’d love your help.

Thank you!


Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/brightsideatumn.

For email updates about our student group or volunteering information, contact Clara at holde253@umn.edu.

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