To many of us, a trip to the grocery store is simply a matter of finding the time in our schedule to jump in the car and drive a few miles.
But that grocery trip presents big challenges to many of the people who live in Flint, where supermarkets are shutting down left and right.
The city lost two Kroger stores and a Meijer within eight months.
And with about half of the city’s residents living below the poverty line, many can’t afford to get a car to drive to the suburbs for fresh, healthy food.
Ed Benning and his team at the Flint Mass Transportation Authority wanted to help residents get to those grocery stores that are still open.
They put together “Ride to Groceries,” a special bus to take shoppers to grocery stores.
Benning tells us that with so many stores closing, many Flint residents are stuck in a food desert.
MTA adjusted bus routes as it heard stores were closing to try to give riders more access to the remaining supermarkets, but Benning says it became clear a larger change was necessary to really address the issue.
“Once the announcement came out about Kroger, I pulled staff together and said, you know, we need to do something because these people have no way to get groceries,” he says.
When they started Ride to Groceries, the service ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and traveled between the remaining Kroger on the northeast side of the city and the Walmart on the southeast side.
The schedule was recently adjusted, and now the bus runs 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Benning tells us MTA noticed many people were riding to the grocery store every day because they had a hard time carrying enough groceries on the bus. MTA now offers a call-in service, and will drive individuals straight from their house to the store and back.
Information about MTA and the Ride to Groceries program including service hours and cost of service can be found on their website.
Ed Benning tells us more about Ride to Groceries and how MTA hopes to continue improving the service in our conversation above.