Detroit’s Food Desert Label Improving, Expert Says, Pointing To 70 Grocers

DETROIT (WWJ) Remember that old saw about how difficult it is to live in Detroit because there’s nowhere to grocery shop?

It’s an old wives tale, according to Mimi Pledl, the manager at the Green Grocer Project at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

There are places to shop for groceries in Detroit, and it’s not just the two Meijer stores and the Whole Foods. In fact, Pledl says there are 70 independent grocery stories, 50 of which have signed on to the project.

As for the common conception that they’re old and dirty, Pledl says that’s just not true.

“They’ve done renovations, expansions, technical assistance and facade improvements so I think you would really find that there have been a lot of changes and improvements to the stores,” she said.

The Green Grocer project, started with a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, works with the grocery sector in Detroit to improve the quality and quantity of wares. Pledl says two recent studies show prices at the independent stores are comparable to chains in the suburbs.

Pledl says most residents now live just over a mile from a full service, independent grocery store. That still qualifies the city as a “food desert,” a label that applies to communities where it’s too far for the average resident to walk for a bag of groceries.

James Garrison, a manager at Honey Bee Market, which has been in business since 1956, finds the label insulting, according to a Next City report.

“It is a bit of an insulting perception that Detroit is a food desert and doesn’t have any good grocery options,” Garrison said. “The negative perception is really about being ignored. People aren’t celebrating what we have here. Since our expansion in 2000, we’ve filled our shelves with more local, organic items by listening to the needs of our customers. We have a mix of long-time shoppers and new customers that come in two to four times a week.”

 

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