A bowling alley sign

A Community-Led Effort in Worthington

Walking through the doors of Oxford Bowl in Worthington, Minnesota is like stepping back in time. Despite Oxford Bowl being closed for nearly a decade, it remains perfectly preserved. Neon signs advertising burgers and coneys light the countertop where racks of bowling shoes are still stacked and sorted by size. An array of speckled bowling balls sit neatly arranged on their shelves. Trophies and plaques celebrating perfect games from decades ago are mounted on the walls around the lobby.  

Soon, this bowling alley’s doors will be open to the Worthington community once again, though not to bowl a few frames. It will be the site of the Global Market in Worthington, providing much needed food to a growing community.

“You can see the vision,” says Char Graff, Second Harvest Heartland’s Rural Investments Manager. “Having this much space will make a massive difference.”

Bowling alley lanes

The future home of the Global Market in Worthington will have plenty of space not only for shoppers, but for storage and deliveries as well.

Moving into Oxford Bowl is the culmination of a project facilitated by Second Harvest Heartland and the Worthington Community to engage with those facing persistent food insecurity, specifically those of non-white and non-English speaking communities to better understand and design for access to healthy food. Worthington’s United Community Action Partnership (UCAP) stepped forward to manage the food shelf and applied for grant funding to make the new food shelf space possible.

Community listening sessions were facilitated by Seeds of Justice, an organization committed to strengthening Worthington communities of color by pushing for equal representation in local decision making. Seeds of Justice held interviews with people with lived experience of food insecurity in Worthington communities, and Second Harvest Heartland met with interviewers between the three interview stages. After listening sessions helped identify what the Worthington community needed from a food shelf, the group of community members formed the Worthington Cultural Food Shelf Planning Group, which prioritized equitable decision-making structures, trusted communication and information, whole-person accessibility, and crafting welcoming and safe experiences in their combined efforts to create a new food distribution organization in Worthington.  

While the group continues their plan to transform Oxford Bowl into a food shelf, there is still an immediate need in Worthington. This is why in March, The Global Market in Worthington opened in their temporary home: an old Western wear store next to the United Community Action Partnership, who runs the food shelf as well as provides SNAP application assistance alongside other community and family service needs. 

Shelves full of bowling shoes

A great deal of preparation will go into transforming Oxford Bowl into a food shelf, while keeping some of its unique characteristics.

The Global Market in Worthington during its first month of operations served a total of 155 households, providing food rescued from local Walmart and Kwik Trip stores, with Second Harvest Heartland starting fresh produce delivery during their second phase of opening.  

Not only has the creation of The Global Market in Worthington been community led in origin, the food shelf itself is primarily run by volunteers from the Worthington community.  

Nicole, the food shelf manager, facilitates a group of women from the Worthington community as they stock the shelves and assist shoppers.

A group of five women posing in a food shelf

The Global Market has a dedicated group of volunteers that not only help shoppers while in the store, but also help spread awareness of the food shelf.

Alma, Fabiola, Gina, Sara, and Victoria are members of the Worthington community. They also volunteer their time helping at The Global Market, as well as through other opportunities provided through United Community Action Partnership.

“People have to pay for their [housing],” says Fabiola through a translator. “Maybe they need to send money to their family. We are finding ways to help beyond the food shelf.”

Inclusivity is something that is very important to The Global Market and its volunteers—Sara, Fabiola, Alma, and other volunteers help get the word out in the community about the food shelf, as well as work with United Community Action Partnership to help deliver food to people who do not have transportation. “The cost of living is very expensive right now, and it’s great that we have this resource,” says Sara.

“There's a lot of people that do know of this service, but there's still a lot more we need to reach, especially the ones that are from different countries. We still need to reach them and have them find the resources here and get the word out to them. But we are trying to reach everybody in the community to make sure that they have the resources they need,” says Alma, through a translator.  

A group of women putting food in boxes

The Global Market in Worthington receives food from a multitude of sources that volunteers help unpack and stock.

Second Harvest Heartland is proud to not only provide fresh produce to spaces like The Global Market, but also to also help communities build systems to better feed their neighbors. We are also grateful for volunteers and members of the community for their hard work in making sure that no one goes hungry.  

“We go slow, but I’m happy,” says Alma. “We go little steps, but we go.”