Current Access to Quality Food in Detroit

Access is germane to any discussion about a community’s food security.  Access is the availability of quality food within a reasonable distance from where people live.  Access also includes the ease and ability to travel to where quality food is available, as well as the affordability of that food and its cultural suitability to specific population groups within the community.

In the city of Detroit, the most accessible food-related establishments are party stores, dollar stores, fast-food restaurants and gas stations.  Although most neighborhoods may have a grocery store within a “reasonable” distance, the quality and selection of food items is exceedingly lacking.  Most city stores have a very limited variety of unprocessed (fresh) vegetables and fruits.  Most foods are canned, boxed, frozen and/or highly processed.  Highly processed foods are nutrient-poor, with excessive salt, sugar, and harmful fats.  These stores also lack food alternatives for persons with the chronic conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, who require low-salt, sugar-free, healthy carbohydrates and healthy fats.  These and other chronic health conditions exist and are growing at alarming rates in the African-American community.

The lack of access to transportation, an inadequate public transportation system, and safety issues are all factors impacting a person’s ability to choose when and where they shop for food items.  Fast-food restaurants, dollar stores, party stores and gas stations are often the closes and most convenient establishments from which people get food.

With regard to affordability, the cheapest food items are usually the most heavily processed and unhealthy items.  Fresh food items are more expensive, even though they are often of poor quality.  The availability and affordability of local and/or organic vegetables, fruits and meats is practically non-existent in Detroit, while merely crossing jurisdictional borders gives one that access.  In fact, many Detroiters with transportation and economic means regularly, if not exclusively, shop for food beyond the borders of this city.

Actions Needed:

  • Increase the number of culturally appropriate food outlets within a reasonable distance in all Detroit neighborhoods.
  • Perform research on the type and location of food establishments and the extent to which these stores fulfill neighborhoods needs.
  • Create mechanisms with store operators and the Michigan Dept of Agriculture food safety inspection system to ensure that Detroit stores comply with food safety codes and maintain clean and sanitary food preparation and sales environments within stores.
  • Ensure that food stores carry a variety of fresh foods and food items for persons with special needs and chronic conditions.
  • Put in place monitoring mechanisms to ensure that food items are safe and fresh.
  • Review bus stops and put in place bus lines that give people direct access to grocery stores without the need of a transfer. Assess the need for “grocery routes” which reflect actual shopping needs (evenings and weekends).
  • Make locally grown and organic foods accessible throughout  the city by supporting increased production within neighborhoods, neighborhood farmers markets, and small business assistance to neighborhood stores that agree to participate in a “good neighbor program” in which they agree to sell more locally grown fresh and healthy foods, do not sell alcohol and tobacco to minors, and negotiate other mutual benefits with neighborhood organizations that can appropriately represent neighborhood desires.
  • Oppose distribution of genetically modified foods (GMO)’s in the City of Detroit.

Explore The Detroit Food Policy

The Detroit Food Policy was unanimously adopted by the Detroit City Council on March 15, 2008

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