food desert

Grocery cart
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When we talk in Michigan about "food insecurity" and "food deserts", it's usually about Detroit, Flint and cities battling poverty.

But there is another region where access to healthy, fresh food is a constant challenge: the Upper Peninsula.

Take Alger County. It has been classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a "low income, low access community." That means people have to drive at least ten miles to get to a fully stocked grocery store.

Food stamp debit cards back to normal in Michigan

Oct 13, 2013
www.macombcountymi.gov

Michigan's debit card-style food stamps program is working again after a technical problem crashed the system in 17 states.

State Human Services Department spokesman Dave Akerly says Michigan's Bridge Card system is back up Sunday.

He says that Xerox provides technical services for the Bridge Card program and similar food stamps programs in 16 other states. He says the problem began Saturday and Xerox fixed it late in the day.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe says the outage was unrelated to the federal government shutdown.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new non-profit bank is opening to encourage grocery stores to locate in so-called "food deserts."

Those are places in cities, suburbs and rural areas with no farmers markets or grocery stores.

Jane Whitacre is director of the Michigan Food Policy Council. She says many other states have long taken advantage of a program that lends money to grocery stores to set up in under-served areas.

“It's really silly that a food state like Michigan hasn't already done this,” says Whitacre.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Whole Foods announced today the store will open on June 5th in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood and will employ 75 people.

The store will be on the corner of John R and Mack, right off of Woodward Avenue.

The Associated Press reports details about job openings will be posted online April 2nd.

In the meantime, Whole Foods is holding informational meetings about jobs on March 5th, 6th, and 7th.

Parts of Detroit have been described as "food deserts," where access to healthy food can be a major problem. Whole Foods hopes to fill that void in Midtown.

The Austin, TX based chain received millions in tax breaks to build the store.

Some have questioned whether this is fair to other grocery stores operating in Detroit.

When it was announced that a Whole Foods would open in Detroit in 2011, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with the competition:

Kim Smith lives in Detroit. Last year she opened Kim’s Produce, just a couple blocks over from where her competition will soon set up shop. As a resident of Detroit, she’s excited about Whole Foods coming to town:

"I mean that’s the question on everybody’s mind: When they move to Detroit, where am I gonna shop? So I think it is a really good thing for Detroit."

As for what Whole Foods will mean for her business?

"I don’t know. I really don’t know if we can really compete."

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some Detroit high school students are learning about food, nutrition, and entrepreneurship this summer.

They’re with a group called the Detroit Youth Food Brigade, which pairs high school students with local food-based businesses.

The kids then spread out to different farmers markets around the city to sell those products.

But organizers say the program is about more than just business. They want the kids to learn about nutrition, the bigger food system, and how it works locally in Detroit.

This morning, ground was broken for a new Whole Foods Market in Detroit -- and plenty of people are excited about it.

Detroit is commonly said to be underserved in terms of supermarkets, and has even been called a “food desert,” because of its perceived lack of stores selling things like fresh local produce.  Whole Foods bills itself as the world’s largest natural and organic food chain, and they’ve never had a store in the city.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved tax breaks Tuesday in exchange for new investment and jobs.

MEDC spokesman Joseph Serwach says one of the four projects receiving tax breaks includes a much-needed grocery store in the City of Detroit.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Fifteen months after it opened, Flint’s first downtown grocery in 30 years is struggling to stay open.    

Witherbees Market was intended to serve the needs of people living in downtown Flint. The downtown zone, like many other urban areas in Michigan, has been described as a "food desert", with little access to fruits, vegetables and other fresh food.   

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Whole Foods is coming to Detroit.

Pneedham / Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a weekly look at things that are working to improve the state. Today: we take a look at food and Detroit. The city has been called a “food desert,” because of its lack of grocery stores. One group has been trying to change that. Sarah Fleming is the program manager of the Green Grocer Project. It was launched a year ago by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and we asked her how it's going.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

‘Food deserts’ are a growing problem in Michigan cities. Two Michigan State University professors believe they have an idea that might help.

'Food deserts’ are created when local supermarkets close and there’s no place where people can walk to buy fruits, vegetables and other fresh food.

MSU professors Phil Howard and Kirk Goldsberry wanted to see how bad the problem is in Lansing. Goldsberry says he was surprised that large sections of the capitol city are ‘food deserts’. He says, in many cases, if you want fresh food, you must drive to Lansing’s suburbs.  

“The suburbanization of groceries has placed our best markets in commercially zoned in non-residential, automobile oriented areas.  Essentially geographically separating our best produce sections from our most densely populated neighborhoods.”  

The MSU professors have created an interactive map showing Lansing’s ‘urban food deserts’. They hope to create similar ‘food desert’ maps for Flint, Grand Rapids and other US cities.

Goldsberry says communities need to encourage more urban gardens and farmers markets to fill the gap in urban ‘food deserts’.