The authentic voice of the Northside

North News reporter

Minneapolis’s Northside is a community with a rich history and a bright future. But a full and nuanced account of this neighborhood is seldom told. Instead, perceptions of North Minneapolis and its people are often reduced to a single, negative narrative: one of crime, poverty, blight, and disparity. That storyline feeds a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as policy makers, law enforcement, and community members subscribe to that narrative, little can be done to change it.

This is where community media can make a tremendous difference. By empowering people to tell their own story, community newspapers and other hyper-local media reveal the truth of a place to the wider public — and, crucially, to the community itself.

That’s the role of North News. Relaunched in 2016 by Pillsbury United Communities,  North News is a grassroots print and digital news source that works to deepen empathy and appreciation for North Minneapolis. Each monthly issue delivers original reporting and insightful stories about people and events shaping our neighborhoods, all told from a Northside perspective.

North News editors and journalists work to capture voices that get left out of the dominant media narratives. In 2018, the paper published stories about mistreatment within the housing system, life after prison, and environmental injustice on the Northside. In the paper’s groundbreaking Trauma Trooper series, journalists captured the trauma-related realities facing youth in North Minneapolis — a vital step in persuading the community and city professionals to respond.

At the same time North News opens minds, it also opens doors. The content is made possible by young writers and reporters in North High School’s daily journalism classes. 58 students have participated since the paper’s relaunch in 2016 — brainstorming ideas, choosing angles for their stories, and identifying their own experts. In the process, they grow their job skills and ambitions and become visible leaders in their community.

In the two years since its relaunch, North News has become the neighborhood’s indispensable voice, with a print circulation of 10,000 papers and online stories and Facebook posts that typically reach thousands of readers each month.

We recognize a key social issue facing Minneapolis is the lack of empathy and understanding of one another’s experiences. By painting a full and vivid picture of a dynamic community — its triumphs as well as its struggles — North News nurtures a foundation for real, inclusive change. We’re helping people tell the story they see and live, not the same old one they’ve always been told.

“I’ve learned first hand how journalists can connect to their communities and the value of the work they do. North News gives us the power and the responsibility to represent our neighborhood.” — Daija, North High alumna and former North News Intern

BY THE NUMBERS

10,000 monthly print circulation

400 public bulk drop sites and home subscriptions

58 student journalists engaged since the paper’s relaunch in 2016

Learning that sparks imagination and potential

Young girl at PEEC

Birth through age five is a critical time in childhood, when little brains make more connections than at any other time in life. During this important window, children need access to age-appropriate learning — social, emotional, and academic — or risk falling behind. Yet many children in our state lack the early learning opportunities they need to arrive at kindergarten prepared. That feeds the pronounced achievement gaps in Minnesota, where our students of color rank at the bottom nationally for graduation rates, test scores, and other metrics.

The reality is, access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally-relevant preschool is severely limited in precisely the communities where it’s most needed. We see that as an urgent call to action. To give more children in our community the opportunity to succeed, we created Pillsbury Early Education Center, or PEEC.

Situated in Minneapolis’ Phillips neighborhood, PEEC prepares children to thrive in school and life with a genuinely integrated approach. More than ABCs and 123s, PEEC works to nurture kids’ curiosity, creativity, and cultural identities and support their physical and emotional well-being. Staffed by experienced teachers who know the communities they serve, PEEC brings culturally responsive instruction that responds to and celebrates diversity and difference.

Arts have the power to increase access, attachment, and agency for all. So we make creativity the hallmark our curriculum. The school is housed in a vibrant neighborhood arts center that supplies teaching artists to the program. Our teachers are creative role models who encourage children to express themselves through writing, drumming, movement, music and formal and informal performances. As part of PEEC’s theatre and storytelling curriculum, preschoolers create and act out their own stories — developing literacy, communication skills, and confidence in the process.

When families are engaged, children simply learn better. PEEC is co-located with a variety of Pillsbury United social services, making parental involvement part of families’ daily routine. Through tuition support and other resources, we help families in times of financial hardship, so kids have a stable foundation for whatever uncertainty life brings.

Around 40 children a year participate in PEEC. And the results speak for themselves. In 2017 and 2018, 100% of children aging out of the program demonstrated kindergarten readiness. 100% of younger children showed age-appropriate social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. 100% were up to date with immunizations and received well child check-ups. And 100% of parents and caregivers reported that the information and resources PEEC provided helped with positive parenting.

Of course, PEEC can’t solve the gaps in educational access and achievement on its own. Our brand of culturally-attuned education can serve as a model, in Minnesota and beyond, for how communities prepare their youngest members for a lifetime of lively learning and creative participation.

“Our family has loved the exposure to the arts — dance, singing, theatre, art and the cultural influences provided at Pillsbury. Our girls’ confidence in themselves and creative energy is a direct result of their time at Pillsbury.” — Genevieve, Parent

BY THE NUMBERS

100% success rates for kindergarten readiness over the past six years

4-STAR rating from Parent Aware, their highest rating

3 languages of instruction: English, Spanish, and ASL

Growing food and security on our own turf

Workers at Freight Farm

Minnesota’s economy was founded on food. Yet today 1 in 8 children in our state struggle with hunger. 1 in 6 Minnesotans don’t know where their next meal will come from. What’s behind this disconnection? While food is plentiful in our state, gaps in income and access mean it’s not getting where it’s needed most — especially in low-income areas and communities of color.

Ensuring families are well fed has been at the heart of Pillsbury United’s work for over a century. Through food recovery and redistribution efforts at our community cafes and food shelves, we’re making a big impact: turning every dollar donated to our food shelves into $7 of purchasing power for families we serve.

But pressure on the system continues to grow. “We’re seeing a 30% increase in clients every year between our two food shelves,” says Ethan Neal, Food Systems Manager for Pillsbury United Communities. “As other centers close, people are migrating to our food shelves. As a result, we have more clients and less money.”

Meeting surging demand means growing our food donations — and finding creative ways to expand supply. Urban agriculture is an ingenious answer. Pillsbury United has spearheaded farm and community garden projects at 10 locations across our sites in the Twin Cities. These farms produce fresh fruits and vegetables for our food shelves and meal programs city-wide, including a hydroponic growing operation that yields healthy greens 365 days a year.

It’s an investment in nutritious food as well as self-sufficiency. “By 2020, we want 40% of the food served at our community cafes to be grown by us right here in the neighborhood,” says Neal. These farms grow human capability as well, providing hands-on education and internship opportunities for young people who want to build a smarter food system. We’re even partnering with the University of Minnesota researchers to build a model for other organizations to follow.

Our vision: to build a closed-loop system that ensures everyone in our communities is well fed with healthy, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food that is locally and sustainably grown. Next, we’re drawing up plans for a Community Supported Agriculture program that delivers homegrown produce to our neighbors at the peak of freshness. That’s how you grow a healthier community from the inside out.

“Getting fresh food, eating good food – it’s going to give them happiness, bring them joy.” — Ghartey, community member and former Waite House volunteer

BY THE NUMBERS

1.2 acres of vertical indoor growing space

4 varieties of healthy greens plus herbs and edible flowers growing at all times

40% of food served in our community cafes will be Pillsbury United Communities grown by 2020

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