Health Department’s outreach efforts draw Somali and Latino business owners

The Health Department embarked on a new community outreach effort last year to work better with Somali and Latino business owners, and the work is paying off. A recent forum for Somali business owners drew more than 110 attendees. The department is now connecting more effectively with one of its target audiences, and other departments are invited to participate in ongoing forums.

Building networks

In 2014, the department’s Food, Lodging and Pools Division made it a priority to engage business owners of restaurants and other businesses serving food or beverages, especially immigrant business owners, to find out how the City could better support them.

Staff worked to establish relationships with ethnic community organizations, utilizing bilingual health inspectors in the process. After developing a network, the team held meetings with various business owners from these communities. In 2014, more than 425 people attended 14 meetings.

The initial outreach focused on finding out:

Many English-speaking business owners preferred email communications. Somali and Latino business owners overwhelmingly preferred face-to-face meetings.

Questions raised by Somali and Latino business owners covered a wide range of City services. In response, the Health Department partnered with the Community Planning and Economic Development Department’s Business Licensing Division to hold regular forums with Somali and Latino businesses.

Other departments invited to ongoing forums

Departments or organizations that have information that will help or affect the Somali and Latino business communities are invited to attend the forums. The team now holds forums every three to four months with the Somali and Latino business communities. The forums focus on City services and changes in ordinances that may affect their businesses and allow time to address issues raised by community members.

The most recent Somali forum included information on:

Previous forums have included information from the Minneapolis Police Department on police response to businesses, loitering and false alarm calls. The Minneapolis Fire Department has provided information on cleaning restaurant hoods.

A primary complaint from the Somali community is that food safety classes are not taught in Somali. Minnesota Food Code requires at least one person at licensed food establishments to have food safety training. Without food safety training classes available in Somali, a barrier exists to complying with this state requirement. In response, the Health Department is working with a consultant to develop food safety training classes in Somali.

Learn more

To learn more about the team’s work or to have your department included in a future meeting with the Somali or Latino business communities, contact Community Liaison Leslie Foreman.

Published May 19, 2015

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