Ever since Mari Gallagher Research and Consulting Group called Detroit a food desert in a 2007 report, the moniker has stuck with the city.
Since then, organizations like Peaches and Greens have sprung up to meet the needs of their community. Researchers like Robert Linn have come up with different conclusions about the existence of food deserts. The city has worked to help stores like Whole Foods and Meijer build stores within the city limits.
Often ignored in discussions of Detroit’s food desert are the independent grocers that exist within the city, which offends James Hooks, the owner of Metro Foodland. His store has been providing fresh groceries to the Grandmont Sub and Rosedale Park neighborhoods in Detroit since the 1960s.
“We don’t like the idea that if you’re not a chain store, you’re not a legitimate grocery provider for the community,” says Hooks. “We want to be appreciated by the people who claim that Detroit is a food desert.”
That’s why AFPD (formerly Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers) decided to pull together a map plotting the location of the 86 full service grocery stores located in Detroit. Auday Arabo, president and CEO of AFPD, says he was surprised a map like the one his organization revealed had been produced.
“Let’s put together a map with all 86 full service grocery stores that offer meat, produce and the like and let’s show people. And if after they look at this map, if they still think there is a food desert in their mind, then we will have that discussion,” says Arabo.
He also points out many of these independent grocers have taken over locations vacated by chain stores in the past, serving and employing people in the community. In fact, three new independent grocery stores have opened this year.