Anabel’s Grocery – not your typical grocery store
On February 15, 2023, Anabel’s Grocery opened for the first time this year. Anabel’s, a student-run nonprofit, focuses not only on providing affordable groceries to Cornelian residents, but also on building community around food justice. College students taking or graduating from AEM 3385 are constantly planning events and starting initiatives that benefit customers. From working with inner-city charities to cooking lessons, there’s always more going on here than just selling food, unlike your typical grocery store, making Anabel’s a unique social enterprise on campus. With multiple projects underway, we can only wait to see what the staff will be working on for the rest of this semester.
Within the first month of opening, many successes have already been celebrated at Anabel’s. On March 5, the Collaborative Education committee held Toast-A-Thon, a community brunch with Prisoner Express at the Durland Alternative Library. Prisoner Express is an organization that spreads hope to incarcerated people through poetry, art and writing programs. Attendees sent letters and bundles of books to those in need while enjoying bread provided by Wide Awake, a local Ithaca bakery focused on sustainability and community building.
Another very recent event held by Anabel’s staff was a cooking demonstration on the afternoon of Saturday, March 11. At 660 Stewart Avenue, staff members taught attendees how to prepare a coconut, lentil and vegetable curry using only store-bought ingredients. More free demos can be expected in the future. RSVP links to these events are posted on Anabel’s Instagram page.
Besides the lessons, there are other ways to learn cooking skills inside the store. Weekly recipes are printed and available to everyone at the registry, while also being posted on Anabel’s website. From overnight oats to vegan mac and cheese, there’s a lot to learn while all the ingredients are stockpiled here. Weekly meal kits are also available in the store; Packaged products help encourage students to incorporate new dishes into their lives as they work towards more balanced diets. New foods will be introduced every Wednesday.
Looking ahead, this is an important week for Anabel’s, as the annual Giving Day falls on Thursday, March 16. The staff is planning a phone-a-thon to raise money for the store. This is an excellent opportunity to donate online and support the mission of the organization. The next day, March 17, there will be an Office of Global Learning Community Dinner at 6:30 pm The event will focus on international food and, in addition to Anabel, other groups will cook for the evening. The staff is planning future community dinners, including one that may be held with the Botanical Gardens.
With a plethora of new students added to the staff this semester, an increasing number of events are also bringing the Anabel community even closer together. A volunteer at both Prisoner Express and the store, Elinor Belhman ’26 reflects on her time with the company thus far: “I’ve loved getting to know everyone who works at Anabel’s. It’s definitely a place that brings people together and there’s a strong sense of community there.” Elinor said. Meanwhile, new staff member Ishani Chopra ’24 appreciates the hours she’s put in working at the store: “It’s interesting to see how well Anabel works without a hierarchy. It takes effort and communication from everyone, and we collectively strive to make Anabel’s better for customers and future students who work there,” Ishani said.
Ishani, along with many others, define Anabel’s by its unique setting and close-knit group of volunteers. Operating from 12 to 7 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 12 to 3 pm on Saturdays, the store can be found in Anabel Taylor Hall. Dr. Anke Wessels, who teaches Anabel’s class and manages the staff, is excited with the store’s progress so far: “Anabel’s is off to a great start this semester! We have served more than 1,700 customers since we opened on February 15, 500 more than last year in the same time period. The number of transactions using SNAP/EBT has tripled since last year. The most popular items sold are eggs, bread from Wide Awake Bakery, and a variety of fruits and vegetables that are priced fairly low. We are a valuable resource for all Cornell students, making it easy for them to shop for basic groceries by saving time and money.”
Beyond the resources and opportunities this organization creates, Anabel’s Grocery is appreciated for the bonds it creates among students. I think junior Lauren Mukaigawa ’24 says it best when she describes her experience with Anabel thus far: “Working at Anabel’s has opened my eyes to the impact it has beyond the store itself. It is exciting to see the relationships we are developing with local co-ops, vendors, and campus organizations.” With so much of the semester still ahead, it’s exciting to imagine what surprises Anabel’s staff has in store for Cornell. Time and time again, the group continues to unite the university under the common goal of distributing good quality, affordable food.
Kira Walter is a freshman in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She can be contacted at [email protected]