Now open: Halal food shelf at 34th & Nicollet

Fartun Weli is distributing dates and oatmeal at the nonprofit Isuroon’s new food shelf on Nicollet. Photo by Michelle Bruch

The woman-run Somali nonprofit Isuroon has opened a halal food shelf at 3416 Nicollet Ave., following years of work to make it happen.

“It has been a long time coming,” said Fartun Weli, executive director of Isuroon.

Upon learning that food shelves were prohibited at their Nicollet Avenue building, Isuroon worked with the Minneapolis City Council to pass a new ordinance allowing food shelves in all commercial areas.

City regulations haven’t been the only source of difficulty. The food shelf receives death threats and angry voicemails from people who don’t like the idea of a halal food shelf, Weli said.

“We’re serving. … What keeps us going is the community,” she said. “Giving up is not part of our vocabulary.”

Weli said she wanted to open a food shelf because the Somali community is underserved, and there remains huge gaps in access to food. The food shelf served more than 300 people in its first three weeks, she said.

Residents are picking up dates and oatmeal during Ramadan — with people fasting each day, Weli said she’s trying to give them the heartiest meals possible to consume at night. Staff are also making food deliveries to homes, allowing seniors to stay out of the heat.

In the future, they plan to offer cooking classes as well. Although cauliflower recently became available, recipients had no idea how to cook it.

The food shelf’s produce comes from Second Harvest Heartland, and funding comes from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and the Seward Co-op.

Throughout the month of June, Seward Co-op customers can “round up” their bills to give the extra pennies to Isuroon. So far this month, more than 23,000 customers have made a donation.