Adair Mosley, CEO & President, Departing Pillsbury United Communities

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, AUGUST 16, 2022—Pillsbury United Communities Board of Directors announced today that Adair Mosley will transition out of his role as President and CEO. He will leave September 30 and will step into the role of CEO of the African American Leadership Forum in October.

Mosley has been President and CEO for the past five years and has been with the organization for 11. His time as agency leader has spanned philanthropic and community shifts, devastating tragedies, a global pandemic, and an uprising for social justice. Throughout it all, he has been a champion of meeting the moment with transformative innovation and investment. During his tenure, the agency’s budget grew from $12 million to $16 million. His accomplishments include:

    • Opening North Market, a full-service grocery store in North Minneapolis
    • Establishing Justice Built Communities, an economic development initiative with $20M in starting capital that will build equity in land, labor, entrepreneurship, and capital for Black Minnesotans.
    • Receiving a $1.5 million state appropriation to launch a career and early college program.
    • Securing a $750,000 investment from the Kresge Foundation to launch a policy and mobilization department and $1 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota to focus on social determinants of health through cross sector partnership.
    • Raising $1 million to give every member of the North High graduating class of 2022 a post-secondary scholarship

“When I took over this role, I promised to lead ‘change at the speed of community.’ Today, I leave an organization that is fiscally healthy and even more committed to dismantling systems of oppression,” said Mosley. “I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together. I look forward to my next chapter galvanizing policy makers, philanthropy, and corporate partners in pursuit of community’s agenda, and I look forward to doing it in ongoing relationship with Pillsbury United.”

“Thanks to Adair and his leadership team, the tireless staff, extraordinarily generous donors and supporters, PUC is in an exceptionally strong position,” said Heath Rudduck, chair of the board of directors. “We’ll miss Adair tremendously, but he has helped prepare us for the next chapter of the organization’s growth and its steadfast commitment to the prosperity of the communities, people and places we serve.”

The board of directors is in the process of initiating a national search for the agency’s next leader. In the interim, Brenna Brelie, head of operations, will serve as CEO. Brelie has been with the agency for eight years and played a key role in the leadership transition between Mosley and his predecessor, Chanda Smith Baker.

“I’m grateful to have worked alongside Adair for the past eight years. His visionary leadership has changed the trajectory of this organization, and he will definitely be missed,” said Brelie. “However, I am confident our board of directors will find the next passionate leader to continue this legacy at Pillsbury United Communities.”

About Pillsbury United Communities

Pillsbury United Communities is one of Minnesota’s most well-established organizations with 140+ years of service to diverse communities across the Twin Cities and beyond. Pillsbury United Communities has an annual operating budget of $16M (including affiliates) and 150 change agents. We are community builders co-creating enduring change toward a just society where every person has personal, social, and economic power. Our united system of programs, neighborhood centers, social enterprises, and partnerships connects individuals and their families across the region. More information about Pillsbury United Communities is available at www.pillsburyunited.org

North Market 5th Anniversary Mural

WCCO 4 (CBS) News Sunday Morning at 7,  7/31/2022

Hydroponics: The latest fad in food or the future of agriculture?

“Hydroponics: The latest fad in food or the future of agriculture?,” MPR News, 6/2/22

Support Foodshare Month!

At Pillsbury United Communities, we are working to create a long-term solution to food insecurity while meeting the most urgent needs of community. In 2021, we gave away close to 2 million pounds of fresh produce and nutritious ingredients tailored to the unique cultural tastes of our East African, Latin, and Indigenous neighbors. We couldn’t do it without your support. All donations to our food shelves through April 10 will receive a partial match from our partners at Minnesota FoodShare.

 

To make a monetary donation, visit:

https://pillsburyunited.org/foodshare22/

Our impact in 2020

2020 was not normal. Two pandemics bore down on our community, bringing hardship we could hardly have imagined. One was a virus that isolated, sickened, and killed. The other was the plague of systemic racism, embodied in the horrendous murder of George Floyd and the anguished fury it unleashed.

These tragedies shook our community to its core and hit many of us painfully close to home. Some lost livelihoods. Some lost loved ones. Others lost trust in institutions that were supposed to protect them. Many were retraumatized by continued examples of systemic racism.

The pain continues to reverberate. We will be picking up the pieces for years.

Although no one saw the trials of 2020 coming, Pillsbury United was prepared to rise to the moment. Across our agency, staff moved quickly and fearlessly to ease suffering, rebuild, and respond to the crisis with compassion, imagination, and hope.

In 2020, we…

  • Distributed over one million pounds of food and household essentials via our Brian Coyle Center and Waite House food shelves.
  • Disbursed $540,828 in housing relief to neighbors impacted by COVID-19.
  • Provided 121 young people with paid, virtual internships at our neighborhood centers and social enterprises.
  • Supported 160 immigrant women with advocacy services via the Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Program.
  • Connected 341 unhoused young people with housing, employment, and other services via Full Cycle.

And that’s only a snapshot of the work we accomplished last year. Out of a crisis, a more just society can emerge. This is what justice looks like.

Learn more about the magnitude of our impact in 2020—and the broad community support that made it possible—by viewing our 2020 annual report.

Pillsbury United Launches Justice Built Communities Initiative

Rendering of street life on a revitalized W Broadway Ave

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (May 25, 2021) – Pillsbury United Communities (Pillsbury United), an agency with a 140-year legacy of recognizing and amplifying the assets and aspirations of the communities living in historically underinvested neighborhoods across Minneapolis, today announced the launch of the Justice Built Communities (JBC) initiative. JBC will leverage land, labor, entrepreneurship and capital to build equitable economic development for Black residents across the region starting in north Minneapolis. The initiative will be powered by a network of regional and neighborhood partners.

As a first step, JBC will purchase vacant land, buildings, and other disused properties for neighborhood redevelopment. It closed on its first property earlier this month when it purchased the old O’Reilly Auto Parts property at 1601 and 1625 West Broadway along with the adjacent property at 1622 Golden Valley Road, Minneapolis. JBC will use a community-centered design process to inform the redevelopment plans, which will provide opportunities, guidance and financial support to help local, Black-owned enterprises get established and grow. Over time, JBC will bridge land ownership back to local entrepreneurs to build generational wealth.

Pillsbury United has already raised $6 million for the JBC startup fund and intends to raise an additional $14 million through philanthropy and program/mission-related related investments by end of year for acquisition of neglected properties and pre-development capital. Initial investors include US Bank Foundation, Bank of America, GHR Foundation, Margaret A Cargill Fund of the Minneapolis Foundation, Target Foundation, Opus Foundation and Otto Bremer Trust. A variety of innovative financial structures including debt, equity, and NMTC will be used for project-specific development costs.

The initiative’s work will be co-designed and developed through Northside business and neighborhood associations including Folwell Neighborhood Association, Jordan Area Community Council, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, and West Broadway Business and Area Coalition. Local artists will be engaged to beautify the areas before, during and after projects break ground. As properties are developed, Black entrepreneurs step in and take over: bringing goods and services to local residents, job opportunities to youth and adults, and prosperity to families.

“Our mission is to create a just society where every person has personal, social and economic power,” said Adair Mosley, President & CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. “The disruptive forces of 2020 showed the inequity of a system built on racist policies and practices as well as the need to act with urgency to equitably rebuild. JBC will prioritize strategies that ensure the people who were part of the history of our communities are also part of the future. We envision thriving commercial nodes anchored by local businesses and green spaces, safe and stable neighborhoods, and meaningful work and wealth-building opportunities that close racial disparities.”

Minnesota’s Black residents face the worst economic disparities in the nation. Minnesota ranks at the bottom for racial gaps in high school graduation, homeownership and household income. These inequities have been concentrated on Minneapolis’s Northside by decades of systemic disinvestment.

“Today we see the impact of inequitable development in North Loop, a Northside neighborhood adjacent to downtown,” said Jimmy Loyd who serves as Senior Director of Community Development at Pillsbury United. “While real estate activity in North has largely been stagnant, North Loop has seen $1.2B in real estate sales since 2015. That’s created rapid gentrification on the edges of North, and now this boom encroaches deeper into the neighborhood. As properties along Plymouth Avenue and other major corridors are bought up, vulnerable residents are threatened by displacement as outsiders benefit. JBC aims to reverse this concerning trend and support Northside neighborhoods’ vision for their own future.”

Learn more at justicebuiltcommunities.org.

About Pillsbury United Communities

Pillsbury United builds community by co-creating enduring change toward a just society where every person has personal, social, and economic power. Its united system of programs, neighborhood centers, social enterprises, and partnerships connects individuals and their families across the region. Program areas include community health, food accessibility, family stabilization, creative placemaking, community voice, civic engagement, education, career and future readiness, and economic mobility.

Pillsbury United serves the Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant, and working-class residents of Minneapolis striving to build better lives and communities for their families in spite of racism, poverty, and other systemic barriers. Priority neighborhoods include Cedar Riverside, Phillips, and Powderhorn in South Minneapolis and Near North and Webber-Camden in North Minneapolis.

Data science, human services elevated within Pillsbury United leadership

An update from our leadership team

Pillsbury United Communities is pleased to announce several key moves in the agency’s executive leadership team, including the creation of a new executive-level position centered around data science and evaluation.

Tsega Tamene has stepped into the newly established role of Head of Data Science & Evaluation. In this role, she stewards Pillsbury United’s vision and strategy to activate data for impact—transforming how the agency defines, captures, and implements data toward systems change. She previously served as Senior Director of Population Health.

“Data will drive the evolution of our organization and our transformative impact in community,” says Adair Mosley, President & CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. “Pillsbury United Communities seeks to have a population-level impact on systems that create more equitable and just outcomes for our communities. Tsega, with her population health background, will drive upstream change and targeted and predictive program and services.”

Accompanying this new role, several additional Pillsbury United leaders have been named to new or elevated roles.

Ethan Neal has been named to the newly created position of Director of Food Systems. In this role, he oversees all of the agency’s food programs, including food shelves, community meal programs, and urban agriculture, and he drives all of the agency’s efforts towards the creation of a local, sustainable, equitable food system. He previously served as Food Systems Manager.

Awol Windissa has been named to the position of Director of Community Health. In this role, he oversees all community health and wellness programs, with a particular focus on removing barriers to health; promoting wellness; reducing disparities; and implementing place-based, community-centered and culturally-relevant approaches. Awol previously served as Community Health Manager at Brian Coyle Center.

Additionally, current leadership team members Miski Abdulle and Vickie Besch have received promotions to Director of Immigrant Services and Director of Community Accessibility, respectively.

Click here to view Pillsbury United’s strategic framework and learn more about our agency’s strategic priorities.

Food shelves meeting the challenge of COVID-19

Food shelf worker distributing produce to community members

As we reach the first anniversary of COVID lockdowns, it’s worth looking back at the vital response of our food shelves at Brian Coyle Center and Waite House—and the huge efforts they’ve undertaken to show up for the communities that have been hit the hardest in our city.

It’s hard to fathom the scale of their effort. When the first wave of stay-at-home orders began, our food shelves were serving more than three times their usual volume. We were serving more households, and more frequently, than ever before. We kept up that pace all year—and by the end of December, we had distributed nearly one million pounds of food to our neighbors.

“What we have to understand is the operational context of that volume,” says Ethan Neal, Director of Food Systems at Pillsbury United Communities. With changes to the food shelf’s operational model to facilitate social distancing, staff took on a more active role in packaging and distributing food to clients. “That’s a lot of pounds of food on the backs of our people,” Ethan says.

This was a truly unprecedented effort for Pillsbury United Communities. Here’s more about how we stepped up to the challenge—and how you can help us continue this work in 2021 and beyond.

A creative approach in times of crisis

Social distancing guidelines required our team to physically reimagine our food shelves—finding new spaces, and creatively repurposing others. At Waite House, the food shelf team expanded to utilize space in an unused gymnasium.

“We started seeing such an influx in the number of people we were serving,” Ethan says, “That we needed to stretch our legs and utilize one of the largest properties in Minneapolis Parks & Rec.”

And with the lockdowns also affecting our neighbors’ access to essential hygiene items, our food shelves significantly expanded their offerings of diapers, feminine hygiene products, and other household necessities. At Brian Coyle Center, we partnered with our neighbors across the street at Mixed Blood Theatre to organize essential supply drives as a supplement to our food assistance.

“We became much more than just a food shelf,” Ethan says, “and I think that evolution was important in our response.”

Justice and equity in food access

And while COVID-19 forced our team to think creatively and reimagine their work, it also underscored the importance of several long-standing commitments for our agency’s food programs.

“When you think of a food shelf, you think of a model that’s based on canned food drives,” Ethan says. “At Pillsbury United, we’ve pledged a lot of our dollars to source healthy, culturally specific foods to serve our communities.” That means more access to fresh produce, as well as culturally relevant staples that reflect the tastes of our Native, Latin American, and East African neighbors.

“[As an agency] we talk about food justice and equity,” says Jovita Morales, food shelf coordinator at Waite House. “And if we don’t reflect our diversity in our food shelves, that’s not equity.”

“And you don’t see that everywhere,” adds Luz Francisco, building and volunteer coordinator at Waite House. “People in the community can come to us and know that we have foods they’ll want to eat.”

This approach was central to our work pre-COVID, and only became more urgent in response to the pandemic. To that end, we redoubled our commitment to urban agriculture across our entire food system and installed a walk-in cooler at the Waite House food shelf to house more fresh produce. And for those culturally specific preferences that our food bank partners couldn’t meet, we established new relationships with local, minority-owned grocery stores to help fill the gap.

How you can help

There is so much more to be said about the vital response of our food shelves and our many other staff providing essential, frontline services.

Today, you can help support this work with a financial contribution. During the month of March, our partners at Minnesota FoodShare are offering a partial match for all donations to Pillsbury United food shelves. If you’re able, please give today. 

Food assistance is available via the food shelves at Waite House and Brian Coyle Center, as well as via our community meal programs at Waite House and Oak Park Center

Jihan Rashid named Director of Community Health Worker Hub

Community health worker and community members meeting outside Brian Coyle Center

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Pillsbury United Communities has named Jihan Rashid as Director of Community Health Worker Hub.

In this role, Jihan will oversee the agency’s Community Health Worker Hub, a new initiative aimed at elevating the role of community health workers in providing culturally informed, holistic, and coordinated care for communities that have been historically underserved by traditional health care systems.

As part of this effort, Jihan will drive the agency’s adoption of the Pathways Community HUB framework, a certified, evidence-based model for community care coordination that will reduce costs, improve health care outcomes, and center the cultural knowledge of community health workers. This work is being undertaken in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance, and many local health care systems.

“The Pathways Community HUB’s care coordination system is vital for our communities,” said Rashid, “Because it centers strong community relationships through community health workers, upholds accountability for outcome of health and wellness services, and emphasizes care for the most vulnerable in our communities.

“Jihan brings to Pillsbury United a breadth of experience in public health, Medicaid transformation, coalition-building, and community participation in systems change,” said Tsega Tamene, Senior Director of Population Health at Pillsbury United Communities. “She understands the critical gaps and opportunities in healthcare sustainability. We are excited for her vision and leadership to drive this work.”

Jihan has been committed to public health since high school and has worked with a vast array of public health issues (including nutrition, HIV, lead exposure, and air pollution) through research, program management, and public health education.

In her past role as a program coordinator with the Somali Health Board, Jihan facilitated a one-of-a-kind community-led health model, supporting it from its infancy to its establishment as a community-based organization. Subsequently, she drove the establishment of a coalition of like-minded community health boards to collaborate across communities. In addition to her work in program management, community engagement, research and policy-system advocacy, she has also worked as a caregiver, tutor, peer educator, and victim advocate.

Inside hydroponic farming at North Market

If you’ve visited North Market recently, you may have noticed a new neighbor in our parking lot. In partnership with Freight Farms, we’ve installed a hydroponic farm on-site, providing a year-round growing environment that will supply North Market shoppers with local, fresh greens and herbs.

But when we say that the Freight Farm at North Market is a “self-contained hydroponic growing environment,” what does that actually mean? What’s happening within these corrugated metal walls? What is the journey of a seed as it makes its way to the North Market produce aisle?

Step 1: Germination

The first step in the life of a plant is germination. We plant our seeds in a specialized “grow plug” made of coconut husk and peat moss. This eco-friendly growing material keeps its shape and holds water better than traditional soil, making it a better fit for our specialized hydroponic drip system.

Once the plug has been seeded, it is soaked in water and placed under red-and-blue LED lights. Our seeds require a lot of light at this stage—19 hours of sunlight every day over the next week—and the farmer closely monitors the growing environment to maintain an ambient temperature of 70° F.

Step 2: The Nursery

After seven days, our seeds have sprouted, and it’s time for their first move. Our baby seedlings are relocated to the upper level of the harvest table, which doubles as a nursery. Here, the tiny sprouts are watered every 12 hours with a special nutrient-rich solution to ensure they are free of disease and can begin to grow strong roots.

The baby plants continue to receive 19 hours of artificial sunlight per day. Depending on the particular crop, a seedling can spend anywhere between 2-4 weeks growing in the nursery before it’s ready for the next stage.

Step 3: Growing

Once a seedling has matured, it’s time to transplant. The young crops are carefully removed from their seed trays and transplanted to vertical grow towers. These grow towers take up the majority of space inside the Freight Farm. Each plant is carefully spaced out to avoid the spread of algae, insects, and plant diseases.

Although the grow towers are made of plastic, a felt wicking strip in the center allows water to drip down and hydrate the crops. The interior of the Freight Farm holds 256 vertical towers, each of which holds approximately 16 plants—meaning that the combined grow-area of the Freight Farm equals approximately 2-3 acres of outdoor field space.

Step 4: Harvest

Finally, after three weeks in the grow towers, it’s time to harvest. The farmer uses a special harvest knife to remove the plant from the tower. Although this is the shortest step, it requires very careful planning on the part of the farmer. Ideally, when one plant is harvested, a new seedling is ready to take its place in the grow tower. This ensures a steady supply of fresh produce for North Market shoppers.

After a quick inspection to ensure the plant is ready to go, the produce is packed and transported across the parking lot for sale at North Market.

Did you know?

  • The interior of the Freight Farm is climate-controlled, meaning that plants can grow year-round—from the hottest summer day to the coldest winter night.
  • The Freight Farm is slightly tilted! While it’s not noticeable to the farmer, the very slight (3°) angle allows for any excess water to drain back into the Freight Farm’s storage tanks. Reverse-osmosis filtering helps purify the water, making it safe once again for human (and plant) consumption.
  • The Freight Farm interior is equipped with 4 Bluetooth speakers, allowing the farmer and seedlings to listen to music all day.
  • “Daytime” for our crops actually takes place at night! The Freight Farm’s LED lights create a lot of heat and can damage the farmer’s eyes without special protective glasses—so it’s easier to run the lights during nighttime hours, when the farmer isn’t present. By using the majority of our electricity at night, we also reduce the farm’s operating costs.

Summer 2020: youth programs by the numbers

Summer 2020—and our agency’s summer youth programs—have officially wrapped up. As you can expect in light of a post-COVID world, programming these past few months has looked quite different compared to summers past. Yet despite the added challenges of navigating daily life during a global pandemic, our young folks still took the time to learn and develop their personal and professional skillsets, create powerful multimedia content, and step up to support their community.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what our young folks were up to in summer 2020:

  • 19 urban agriculture interns, in partnership with the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Growing Good initiative, learned how to grow and cook their own food from home!
  • 14 food shelf interns helped neighbors meet their essential needs surrounding food access and crucial services by running our food shelves, making and serving hot meals, and delivering food parcels and prescriptions to elders and families
  • 8 Roots for the Home Team interns grew produce and designed a signature salad using culturally relevant and locally grown ingredients. The cancellation of summer baseball meant they couldn’t sell their salads at Twins games, as in past summers—so instead, they partnered with Open Arms to prepare and distribute fresh salads to thousands of individuals living with chronic illness across the Twin Cities Metro.
  • 7 youth researchers examined issues pertaining to mental health and addiction in the Phillips community, deepening their civic engagement and sense of community connection.
  • Plus 73 paid interns hosted at Pillsbury United social enterprises, including:
    • Sisterhood Boutique, our youth-managed fashion consignment store in Cedar Riverside, where young women cultivated their business savvy and leadership skills;
    • KRSM Radio, our radio station in the Phillips community, where youth learned audio production skills (including podcasting and DJing) to share their reflections on the death of George Floyd, COVID-19, and other issues that matter to them.
    • Brian Coyle Best Buy Teen Tech Center, a space for young people in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood to explore their digital creativity.

All in all, we got the opportunity to work with 121 talented and hard-working young people this summer, engaging them in a mix of virtual and in-person programming across our various agency sites and programs.

While these programs provided valuable opportunities for growth and development, what’s also important—if not more important—is that these programs provided safe and supportive spaces for young people to socially connect and express themselves. As we enter into the new school year with the uncertainty of a socially distanced “new normal,” the power of those connections can’t be overstated.

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