On Feb. 15, 2023, Anabel’s Grocery opened for the first time this year. A student-run nonprofit, Anabel’s concentrates on not only providing affordable groceries to Cornellians, but also building a community around food justice. Undergrads who are taking or have graduated from AEM 3385 are constantly planning events and starting initiatives that benefit customers. From collaboration with charitable organizations downtown to cooking lessons, there is always more happening here beyond food sales unlike your typical grocery store, making Anabel’s a unique social enterprise on campus. With multiple projects underway, we can only look forward to what the staff is working on for the rest of this semester.
Within the first month of opening, many successes have already been celebrated at Anabel’s. On Mar. 5, the Collaborative Education committee held Toast-A-Thon, a community brunch with Prisoner Express at the Durland Alternatives Library. Prisoner Express is an organization that spreads hope amongst incarcerated people through poetry, art and writing programs. Those who attended sent letters and book packages to those in need while enjoying bread provided by Wide Awake, a local Ithaca bakery centered around sustainability and fostering community.
Another very recent event held by the Anabel’s staff was a cooking demonstration on the afternoon of Saturday, Mar. 11. Taking place at 660 Stewart Avenue, staff members taught attendees how to prepare a vegetable lentil coconut curry using only ingredients sourced from the store. More free demos can be expected in the future. RSVP links to these events are posted on the Anabel’s instagram page
In addition to lessons, there are other ways to learn cooking skills right within the shop. Weekly recipes are printed out and available to all around the register while they are also posted to the Anabel’s website. From overnight oats to vegan mac and cheese, there is so much to learn while all ingredients are stocked right here. Also available in the store are weekly meal-kits; bundled produce helps encourage students to incorporate new dishes into their lives while working towards more balanced diets. Brand new meals will be featured each Wednesday.
Looking ahead, this is a significant week for Anabel’s with the annual Giving Day falling on Thursday, Mar. 16. The staff is preparing a phone-a-thon to raise funds for the store. This is an excellent opportunity to donate online and support the organization’s mission. The very next day, Mar. 17, an Office Of Global Learning Community Dinner is taking place at 6:30 P.M. The event is centered around international food and in addition to Anabel’s, other groups will be cooking for the night. Future community dinners are being planned by the staff, including one potentially held with the Botanical Gardens.
With a plethora of new students added to staff this semester, an increasing number of events is also uniting the Anabel’s community further. A volunteer at both Prisoner Express and the store, Elinor Belhman ’26 reflects on her time with the enterprise so far: “I’ve loved getting to know everyone who works at Anabel’s. It’s definitely a place that brings people together and there’s a strong sense of community there.” Elinor said. Meanwhile, new staff member Ishani Chopra ’24 appreciates the hours she’s spent working in the store: “It’s interesting to see how well Anabel’s functions without a hierarchy. It takes effort and communication from everyone, and we collectively strive to improve Anabel’s for customers and for future students who work there,” Ishani said.
Ishani along with many others define Anabel’s by its unique environment and tightly knit group of volunteers. Operating from 12-7 P.M. on Wednesday and Fridays, 12 – 3 P.M. on Saturdays, the store can be found at Anabel Taylor Hall. Dr. Anke Wessels, who both teaches the Anabel’s class and leads the staff, is thrilled with the store’s progress so far: “Anabel’s is off to a great start this semester! We have served over 1700 customers since we opened on Feb. 15th, 500 more than last year in the same time period. The number of transactions using SNAP/EBT has tripled since last year. The most popular items sold are eggs, Wide Awake Bakery bread, and a variety of fruits and vegetables that are all priced quite low. We are a valuable resource to all Cornell students, making it easier for them to pick up basic groceries by saving both time and money.”
Beyond the resources and opportunities this organization creates, Anabel’s Grocery is appreciated for the bonds it builds between students. I think junior Lauren Mukaigawa ’24 says it best when she describes her Anabel’s experience so far: “Working at Anabel’s has opened my eyes to the impact it has beyond the store itself. It is exciting to see the relationships we are developing with local co-ops, vendors, and campus organizations.” With so much of the semester still left, it’s exciting to imagine what surprises the Anabel’s staff has for Cornell. Again and again, the group continues to unite the university under the common goal of distributing good quality affordable food.
Kira Walter is a freshman in the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]