Student Activity Grant Brings Mobile Market to Campus

Mobile Market and team.
Publication Date

Emma Mentz, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts, first became interested in food insecurity when she saw how many of her classmates were getting free or reduced lunch. She became even more involved when a food shelter in her hometown of Faribault, Minnesota, closed during the pandemic. 

She worked with a mentor to create a new food shelter, which opened several months ago in partnership with the Community Action Center.

“It uses the super shelf model,” Mentz said. “It’s organized and set up like a grocery store, so that people can choose what they get. You aren’t just given a box.”

Mentz explained that this model can offer more culturally relevant food and reduce food waste.

“You can get two grains, but you have so many choices of your grains,” she said. “It’s food that’s more likely to be used and eaten. Not everybody wants long grain brown rice.”

Mentz has also advocated for food relief programs at the University of Minnesota. She was instrumental in bringing the Twin Cities Mobile Market, which offers discounted groceries on a renovated city bus, to campus.

As part of the Minnesota Student Association, Mentz worked to get all the necessary approvals from departments across the University. But parking proved a challenge. The bus takes up three metered parking spaces, and they needed funds to pay for the reserved spot.

Mentz discovered the Sustainable Development Goal Initiative’s student activity grants. The grants support activities related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) conducted by student groups from any of the University of Minnesota campuses. With the grant, the Minnesota Student Association was able to pay for the bus to park on campus three times over the spring semester.

“The interesting thing to me reading over the Sustainable Development Goals was how interdisciplinary most advocacy work is,” Mentz said. “The first thing you think of for the Mobile Market is zero hunger, but then it’s also working toward equity and a few other goals. I thought it was really cool how interdisciplinary the project is and how many different areas it’s working to help.”