For several years now, Detroit has been tagged as a food desert — a place where fresh, affordable food is often hard to come by. Because no national grocery chains operate full-size stores in the city, most residents make do with corner stores and independent markets, many of which offer second-rate products at marked-up prices. There are exceptions to the rule — Honey Bee Market in Southwest Detroit, for example, is as nice as any chain store, and Eastern Market is a nationally-known gem — but most residents have few good options in their neighborhoods (regardless what Charles Pugh says).
That’s why a coalition of churches and union workers are trying to build a network of community-based grocery stores in Detroit. Like other non-profits in the city, such as the Detroit Black Food Security Network and Gleaners, the Detroit Community Grocery Store Coalition is fighting to provide Detroiters with food security — the assurance that healthy food will be accessible to all, regardless of income or location. Yet they face the same set of problems that have kept most private businesses from succeeding: high rates of poverty, low population, and frequent petty crime. The difference is that unlike private grocers, which struggle to exist in spite of these challenges, the coalition exists specifically to confront these conditions. Hopefully that head-on approach will enable the coalition to find a way to succeed where others have failed.