Anabel’s Grocery — a student-run market founded to address food insecurity on Cornell’s campus — is set to reopen this fall after having spent the past semester trying to “reflect and reassess” the business’ operations.
Prompted by a survey that found that more than one in four students skip meals due to financial restrictions, the grocery originally opened almost two years ago in the fall of 2017 with the goal of providing a healthy, affordable source of nutrition for Cornell students — most of whom live miles away from supermarkets such as Target or Wegmans.
“Food insecurity is being unable to access food on a regular basis in a socially acceptable way,” said Isabel Lu ’20, a student who works at Anabel’s. “That could either be affordability, access, transportation, or cultural expectations.”
“I grew up in a food-insecure household, so Anabel’s mission was really important to me,” said Emily Wang ’20, a student organizer at Anabel’s. “I am no longer food-insecure, but it’s an issue that affects so many people at Cornell. That’s why Anabel’s mission was what it was when it was first begun: quashing food insecurity.”
However, over its past semester hiatus, Anabel’s has taken the time to revamp their business model and pinpoint even more issues in addition to food insecurity — such as nutrition and environmental sustainability.
“We believe that Anabel’s, as a food hub for all students, can cultivate a community around sustainable production, mindful consumption, and education around the systems in place that create these inequities in our food supply,” Anabel’s said in a statement to The Sun.
This shift in mission was driven by its student organizers’ belief that it would bring about more of a community around food.
“The problem with advertising our food insecurity mission was that there was still a stigma around what it means to be food-insecure, and we wanted our business to be as far-reaching as possible,” Wang said.
To do this, Anabel’s has chosen to purchase affordable and locally grown produce for their new store. It has also used its resources to subsidize costs, making its fruits and vegetables accessible to a larger community.
“We also want to have more speakers and cooking classes to foster a community feeling,” Lu stated. “All of this is about uniting people through a safe space for food.”
Another undertaking that will now be included in Anabel’s mission is AEM 3385: Social Entrepreneurship Practicum: Anabel’s Grocery, which aims to teach students the philosophy of food insecurity and to orient students towards working and taking on responsibility at Anabel’s Grocery.
“Anabel’s is completely student-run,” Wang said. “So it’s important that students are educated about how to run the business thoroughly. AEM 3385 teaches nonprofit management and collaboration to students so that, when the time comes, they can feel comfortable taking on a role at Anabel’s.”
Both Lu and Wang have taken the class and advocate for food justice through Anabel’s as well as other ventures.
“For me, personally, the knowledge of learning to run a non-profit and working with other people are extremely valuable experiences,” Lu said.