IMAN’s Muslim Run campaign is entering a critical phase in 2012. For the past several years, IMAN has been working to raise awareness and promote the goals of the campaign to a larger audience, including IMAN supporters, partner organizations and community members. Through that, the organization has been able to build a healthy degree of excitement around the potential to transform communities through an uplifted corner store model. Additionally, the issue of food access and healthy eating is a trending topic in non-profit, governmental and policy circles, both in Chicago and nationally. With all that momentum, leaders in the Muslim Run campaign are moving fast towards making 2012 a big year.
The campaign has already made some significant moves in the first couple months of this year, working closely with a network of four stores who have signed onto a Muslim Run principles document, drafted by campaign leaders. The principles lay forth the vision for the model corner store, and those that have signed on have made a commitment to:
- Clean, well-lit, safe and inviting shopping environments
- Plentiful selections of healthy food options, including fruits, vegetables and dairy items
- Ready-to-eat, healthy and natural snack options, with attention to youth appeal
- High-quality, fresh and natural food products
- Limiting the availability or prominence of alcohol and tobacco products
- Positive customer service and interactions based on trust and understanding
- Serving as focal points in community education campaigns around healthy-eating and wellness
- Fair prices and good values
- Fiscally-sound, profitable and sustainable business models
The management at the four stores that signed onto the principles have recognized that the current model is problematic and made a pledge to enact real and permanent change in the coming year as part of the campaign, with the help of IMAN. The signing of the document marked a powerful step forward in the building of a coalition of partners.
IMAN leaders laid the groundwork for this collaboration as early as last fall, when they convened a handful of store owners and community members in a kickoff meeting to gauge interest and brainstorm ideas. In recent weeks, Muslim Run leaders have visited the four stores to introduce themselves as well as conduct a baseline assessment. Members of the campaign’s business track will interface with the stores on a regular basis over the course of the year to advise, strategize and monitor progress, as well as offer monetary resources. Stores will use provided funds to expand their healthy food options as well as beautify their interiors. Through uplifting these stores as the models for a new corner store paradigm in the community, IMAN hopes to broaden its coalition and sign on up to 20 stores this year.
A portion of the campaign’s funds is coming through a grant from the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), an organization IMAN is working closely with. A part of the relationship with CLOCC involves conducting walk-ability assessments in local neighborhoods to identify issues and devise solutions with regard to how pedestrian-friendly certain routes to schools and parks are. IMAN volunteers have conducted 6 assessments covering more than 20 blocks in local communities. A community forum is scheduled for late February to share data and insights from those assessments and gain consensus on the appropriate next steps. Ultimately, this work ties into a larger goal of Muslim Run, which is to foster positive community environments and dynamics.
The Community Café last Saturday, February 25, was an important milestone in the Muslim Run educational campaign. Chicago artists Mikkey Halsted and Rhymefest have been hard at work in the studio over the last few months putting together their Liquor Store Part II track. Community Café attendees got a special preview when Mikkey and Rhymefest performed it live that night. Going forward, IMAN will be using the song as an education tool in its awareness campaign, particularly focused on the youth. Watch this space for updates as Muslim Run makes progress through the year.