North Minneapolis Has an Appetite for Change: Breaking Bread Cafe Places in the MN Cup

In case you’re not aware, the MN cup is a big deal for entrepreneurs in the state of Minnesota. It’s the largest statewide venture competition in the country and is based out of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, awarding thousands of dollars each year to new business concepts since 2005.

Michelle Horovitz, Executive Director of Appetite for Change, didn’t know how competitive and prestigious the MN cup was when she entered her new venture, Breaking Bread Cafe into the contest. As the co-founder of Breaking Bread, she did know that the community cafe was filling an important gap in North Minneapolis by providing healthy food options, jobs and opportunities for youth to engage in community development in a neighborhood where access to fresh food is limited, fast food is everywhere and young people need more opportunities to invest in their futures.

Then she got a call. The MN Cup told her Breaking Bread had beat out 80 other businesses to compete in a field of ten semi-finalists in the social entrepreneurship division. “This was a really big deal for us,” says Horovitz. There are about 1,300 applicants for the entire competition, with the top two winners in seven categories winning thousands of dollars to give their business a push.

Great ideas often come from individuals that are bravely forging new paths. Breaking Bread is one of those original ideas, leveraging the assets of a community that is often in the news for its high crime rates, but boasts a strong core of committed residents that want to create a positive future for their children and their neighborhood.

Lataijah Powell and Jessie McDaniels, Youth Leaders at Appetite for Change.

Lataijah Powell and Jessie McDaniels, Youth Leaders at Appetite for Change.

Horovitz, who was raised in the West suburbs, but often visited her grandmother in North Minneapolis where her father grew up, felt a connection to the historically Jewish area. Through the 1950s, North Minneapolis had the largest Jewish population in the state and was well integrated with the African-American community. The neighborhood was, and still is, a community of people seeking greater economic prosperity, though now it is mostly African-American. Horovitz saw the passion of local residents who wanted to invest in their neighborhood and teamed up with them to create Appetite for Change.

“A valuable lesson I’ve learned is you can have a good idea, but if you don’t involve the community you’re trying to serve in the design and leadership of the program, it’s not going to be as effective,” Horovitz says of forming Appetite for Change with local Minneapolis residents and social activists, Princess Titus and Latasha Powell. “As much as it’s important to plan and be intentional, sometimes the best ideas grow organically out of community voice,” she adds.

“This fast food takes a toll on your body. Now, I’m fully involved in the organization and seeing the change in my environment.”

Horovitz didn’t start out with the vision for Appetite for Change. She was trained as a lawyer and worked as public defender for many years, then left the field to pursue her twin passions for food and social justice. She spent years working in kitchens and also saw that there was a correlation between poverty and access to food while working as a public defender. “There is so much intersection between food and other social justice issues,”Horovitz says. “People living in poverty and on food stamps don’t always have access to good food. If you don’t own a car and there’s no grocery nearby, you end up eating fast food.”

Horovitz started teaching cooking workshops focused on healthy baby food in North Minneapolis when she had her own child. Then she realized that school-aged children in North Minneapolis could really benefit from youth-focused food programs, too. She teamed up with Titus and Powell to launch Appetite for Change—a non-profit focused on bringing about economic development and social justice through healthy food, community gardens, educational workshops and, this last year, Breaking Bread Café.

The casual, counter service café offers up healthy choices such as turkey burgers and grilled-corn, bean and avocado salads.It also is a community gathering point in a neighborhood that doesn’t have too many, if any. Fast food is on every corner and there is nowhere to get food made from scratch.

Jessie McDaniel, a local resident who is now a Youth Leader and Program Facilitator with Appetite for Change, says that being a part of the organization has set him in a new direction. “This fast food takes a toll on your body. Now, I’m fully involved in the organization and seeing the change in my environment. I’m hanging with new people. People who come around me and they want to know about how to choose healthy, too.”

“The contest officials told me Jessie’s spoken-word piece was the best opener ever heard in MN cup history,” Horovitz says.

Lataijah Powell, a Youth Program Facilitator for Appetite for Change and recent high-school graduate agrees, “Fast food? Nuh-uh. I feel sick when I eat fast food now. I stopped.” Powell wants to use her training at Appetite for Change to eventually open her own school and teach others what she’s learned.

McDaniel equates good food with better education. “How are they expecting us to score high on the MCA’s when the breakfast in the school cafeteria is horrible? It is like toaster strudels, but frozen,” the 22 year-old recalls. “It was the same as prison food. I felt they were creating a pipeline from school to prison, just getting us used to it, “ he laughs, only half-joking.

McDaniel, who has been involved in the organization since 2012 and teaches workshops and works in the urban agriculture program, put his feelings into a spoken word piece that kicked off Breaking Bread’s presentation at the MN Cup.

I gotta Appetite For Change
If it don’t mold when it’s old
Or isn’t fresh
It shouldn’t be sold
That’s a violation of the health code
Yeah we all know
But still eat it though
I’m rooted in the hood
Watch my seeds grow
I’m fresh as kale
This that green flow
I said I’m fresh as kale
This that green flow

I thought about this on the weekend
Like what are we eating
What should I eat first
So I did a ‘lil bit of research
Found out it got deeper
There’s a whole marketing procedure
For getting healthy goods
So they put the fast food in my hood

I gotta Appetite For Change
Cuz the burgers at McDonalds
Compared to my mommas
I swear it ain’t the same
And that’s real
No process
You see a food desert
We see progress
And we strive for more
Putting healthy foods in every corner store
For mines and yours
Never hade this mind state before
I had to make a change
And that choice is yours
I gotta Appetite For Change

“Afterwards, the contest officials told me Jessie’s spoken-word piece was the best opener ever heard in MN cup history,” Horovitz says.

Breaking Bread won second place in the Social Entrepreneurship Division and the “Audience Favorite” award at the final round event. It’s been a great beginning for an innovative business run by Minneapolis residents reaching across neighborhoods and cultural divides to create a program that satiates the hunger for social justice in the Twin Cities.