Green Line Direct Outreach Project: The Blueprint.

This post is not behind any paywall. Please, share it everywhere you can and with everyone you know.

Want to get together with your neighbors and make an immediate impact in our communities? Awesome! It is not hard, and is a great way to spend an afternoon getting out into the community and meeting people where they are at.

I am not going to sugarcoat this: the light rail environment in the Twin Cities is a complex and diverse place. A diversity in behaviors, reasons for using the light rail, and diversity in how passengers are engaging with the other riders. There are neighbors going to and from work, out shopping and running errands, sleeping across a few seats, openly using drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, reading quietly with headphones on, arguing with someone on their phone, or just staring out the window hoping no one notices or bothers them.

St. Paul, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, the state of Minnesota, and the Metropolitan Council have limited options on how to improve the ability of the light rail to achieve its full potential of benefitting the communities it is a resource for. Billions of dollars in taxpayer money has been spent constructing, maintaining, and expanding it. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars has been spent maintaining and constructing our roads that we continue to deteriorate with our addiction to the endless environmental racism and isolation of a Cold War era, car-centric model of urban commuting.

Do any of us want to see police sweeps and mass arrests happening on the light rail? Has policing solved any of the massive and far-reaching problems we face as a community? No. It has only created more isolation, division, and enforcement of caste and disparity.

This was OUR money spent to construct this resource. There is no “personal wealth”. I’m not sure how many times I need to state this. Ownership itself is a scam. It’s a lie. A false construct. We do not “own” anything. These are all “our” resources. Resources that will be needed by neighbors born today, and born 1000 years from now. You do not “own” anything. You just had the financial or generational resources to gain the privilege and responsibility of stewarding a specific resource for future generations.

So, we can continue to destroy the very environment that sustains with our little panic rooms on wheels and crushing addiction to retail therapy and the consumption of entirely unnecessary vanities of convenient consumerism, or we can gather together in the solidarity of mutual actions to better steward the physical aspects of massive investments we have made as a community to make sure our return on investment from these projects is as large as possible.

So, we can ask, “How can we help?” How can we participate in the solutions, in ways that Metro Transit, the Met Council, and our elected representatives can’t or won’t? There is no “them”, only us. Let’s put our eyes in a position to see what is needed, ourselves in a position to be what is needed, to assist and participate directly instead of complaining or ignoring from the sidelines of our comfort.

The photos accompanying this post are from yesterday, (Saturday, Feb. 3rd) when Alex Kollman and I made a bunch of sandwiches (sunflower butter mixed with vegan protein powder and olive oil, vegan margarine, and grape or strawberry jam) and bagged them up with a can of pineapple juice, a piece of organic fruit (thank you Patreon Community! This was fruit left over from Thursday’s Open Market), and a bag of chips. Over 40 meals in total.

Thank you to Patron Angelica for the donation of the vegan protein powder.

The bread was courtesy of our friends at Baker’s Field Flour and Bread, was delivered to Zion by John from XmarX. The jam, juice, and chips were purchased at Restaurant Depot with the contributions from Thursday night. The ten, $10 preloaded GoTo cards were my own contribution (more on that aspect of the program later…), and the sunflower butter came from Cub Foods, purchased with those same funds from Thursday night.

The brown paper bags also came from Restaurant Depot.

The loaves of bread were sliced up by Patron Jules and volunteers Paul & Joe on Thursday morning while we got ready for the Thursday afternoon food distribution and free meal program that Zion operates.

What all is needed to do this? Here’s the rundown.

Volunteers: Ideally you will have 5 people: 1 person toasting the bread. 1 person adding the margarine. 1 person on jam. 1 person on sunflower butter and final assembly of the sandwiches. 1 person wrapping the sandwiches. As each task gets completed (starting with the toasting of the bread) that person can begin bagging up the full lunches. Fruit and juice at the bottom, sandwich next to them, chips on top.

-1 toaster. (Zion has a 4 slot toaster. This was great, because we did not have to fire up the stove and ovens to toast the bread.

-2 pans. (We used two full sheet pans. The first is for spreading the margarine {not only does this keep the bread moist, it also adds a good amount of calories. I know it has been a warm winter, but even if the temp gets below 50º the elements can be very harmful to someone in caloric deficiency.} the second pan was for adding the jam and sunflower butter and then stacking fully made sandwiches.)

-Spoons for applying the jam.

-Small spatula for spreading the sunflower butter. (We used sunflower butter to avoid nut allergies. Also, the light rail is a public space. You are not supposed to be eating on the train, but as demonstrated earlier, someone eating a sandwich is not much of an issue compared to someone walking down the aisles smoking something through a straw that they are burning off a piece of foil. Still, releasing peanuts into a closed environment can create an anaphylactic reaction that would be best avoided.)

-Wax paper for wrapping the sandwiches. (Litter is everywhere. We do not want more plastic being used. Wax paper and a little masking tape does the trick just fine.)

-A Sharpie for marking the sandwiches. (Someone may have a preference, someone may be grateful to see them labeled… For many reasons it is great to have a Sharpie on hand during these actions.)

-#8 paper bags. #6 would work, too, those are traditionally what as available at your grocery stores, but the #8 is a bit sturdier, and someone may find the chance to reuse the bag. a 500 ct bundle of #8 bags costs $15.99 at Restaurant Depot.

-We hand-sliced the loaves we got from Baker’s Field. The loaves we will be getting from Brake Bread will be coming to us sliced. You do not need a commercial, feed-through bread slicer, but a bamboo bread slicer guide such as this would be a big help:

(Of course, if you are getting store bought, sliced bread, this is not a concern. We are very privileged to have direct connections with some absolutely incredible bakeries here in the Twin Cities. Heck, Nate Houge at Brake Bread is a member of this Patreon Community! These are all higher-quality breads, and there is a surplus to be had. Still, do not hesitate to start your own version of this project because you aren’t getting loaves of bread from world-class bakeries. There are ample options for nutritious and delicious breads out there. Many bakeries and stores will even slice the whole loaves they sell if you ask them.)

-Jam! A 3lb jar of Smucker’s grape jelly is $5.35 at Restaurant Depot. 3lb jar of strawberry is $9.67. Pretty much every grocery store has one type of jam/jelly on sale every week.

-Sunflower butter! The 16oz. jar of the organic, Once Again sunflower butter was $8.59 at Cub. The off-brand sunflower spread was on sale for $6.99/16oz. jar.

(We went much heavier on the sunflower butter than the jam. The jam is just a little sugar and fruit and keeps everything moist.)

-Margarine. There is a big tub of Country Crock in the fridge at Zion. We barely made a dent in it buttering over 80 slices of bread. Not sure what those retail for these days.

-Chips! A 50ct box of Ruffles Originals snack size is $17.99 at Restaurant Depot. (There was an unexpected amount of compliments on the chips. Not sure what to make of that, but, glad that they were well received!)

-Juice! a 48ct case of 6oz. cans of Dole pineapple juice is $24 at Restaurant Depot. Again, there was some V8 fruit blends in plastic bottles. There was Mott’s apple juice in glass bottles. The pineapple juice just made the most sense. (Again, a lot of positive feedback on the pineapple juice!)

-Fruit! A 40lb case of organic apples from Co-op Partners Warehouse is anywhere from $37-$90 depending on the variety and season. The case of Pink Lady apples from Thursday was $37. A 36lb case of pears is $44. A 25lb case of mandarins is $54. A 38lb case of Cara Cara oranges is $44. That case of Pink Lady apples was the 100-113ct size.

-GoTo Cards. They can be purchased online in bulk and shipped to your house or to Zion Community Commons (1697 Lafond Ave. St. Paul, MN 55104 care of Community Dinner”) by following this link here:

-Rubbermaid containers, milk crates, sturdy duffle bags, or produce trays/boxes for carrying the meals. We are lucky that there are a bunch of collapsable, plastic produce boxes at the ion Community Commons. That is what Alex and I used yesterday. (See photos)

Depending on when you are riding the train, it will be $2-$2.50 per rider. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR FARE PAID and YOUR PASS ON YOUR PERSON!! When discussing this program with Metro Transit Police Chief Ernest Morales III, he was very supportive of these actions, cautioning only that anyone doing this would need to have a valid ticket. A Line rapid transit stops and Light Rail stations take cards. If boarding a bus to access the light rail, you will need a GoTo Card or exact change!

The first foray out yesterday was an opportunity to test the concept and learn how it will go. We hope to better incorporate more services, including wound care and cleaning/redressing in the near future. (As presented in the previous post). Not only de we want to offer assistance to those on the Metro Transit lines, we want to have greater stock of materials on hand at Zion Community Commons. Here is the list again of medical/first aid supplies to have on hand:

We will need to get info sheets printed up (8th sheet size. So, 8 per letter-sized piece of paper) with information about the services and programs being offered out of the Zion Community Commons. If anyone has printing capabilities, rise your hand. I will get you the PDF to print out.

We will next time begin the distribution from the Union Depot stop and work our way back to the Midway.

We did not have to say anything. We walked on the train and someone asked, “Is that lunch?” and we were going.

We did switch cars at a few stops. Some cars we hung out and talked to folks. Some cars had no one looking for a meal.

Our next foray will be earlier in the morning, getting out to more of our neighbors who have sheltered some of the night on the light rail.

Want to help? Let’s talk on Monday or Tuesday. Stop by the “Chef Share” on Monday at Zion Community Commons or Tuesday’s Community Dinner. Feel free to drop off any canned juices, snack-size chips, shelf-stable jams, and sunflower butter. Stop by on Thursday between 9am and 4pm. I will be at Zion Monday morning at 10am starting to make some sandwiches to offer everyone stopping in during the “Chef Share” which begins at 11am.

Or, just do this in your house with your friends. Get out on the light rail. There may be someone riding by themselves who will feel much more comfortable knowing that you are on the same train as them.

There it is. It’s not hard.

This message came to us from John Marboe yesterday, and I will share it here for you all:

“The word, “economy” comes from a Greek word meaning household. Today it means a monetary system that defines worth (wealth, work, prosperity, even persons) in terms of dollar amounts. Does this seem sane?

What if we took the original meaning of this word seriously? Economy as household, as family? What is truly valuable in the context of a household or family? How are people valued? What is the value of love? How do people thrive? Is competition superior to cooperation? Is there any point to “getting ahead?”

I realize that all of us have quite different experiences of household and family. Some of those experiences have been traumatic. Others have been nurturing and affirming. Most are pretty mixed. Yet I think we all understand the need we all have for love in this context, whether or not we experienced it, or to what extent. Love is the truest value in any household.

This is the real economy. It is about love. Giving and receiving in mutuality. Not winning or losing. Where caring is essential. With the realization that relationships are not just what we have, but what we are.”

Let us no longer look to how we can better protect ourselves from threats (both real and perceived), and let us work to improve what is already here, the lives of those already with us, the community we are already a part of. Remember, capitalism is the only system that goads us along with the exploitive fallacy of a life of leisure. Some far away existence laying on a beach all day. A life where you rely entirely on others for everything you need. Let us no longer work to achieve some point where we are out of reach of the problems plaguing this world (that point doesn’t actually exist), and let’s get right down into it; directly diminishing those problems. Creating the alternatives. Reimagining “economy”.

As bell hooks wrote: “…queer not as being about who you’re having sex with (that can be a dimension of it); but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”

Are you feeling at odds with everything around you?

Well then, as Allen Ginsberg wrote: “America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.

America is this correct?

I’d better get right down to the job.

It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.

America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.”

That’s the blueprint. Go build it.


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