Detroit’s Hunger Problem

12 08 2009

J found this article on  It’s an interesting look at the food supply chain in Detroit and it’s really sad.  The picture of the armed guard protecting a delivery man is really scary.  I wouldn’t think this scene would happen anywhere in America. 

In this recession-racked town, the lack of food is a serious problem. It’s a theme that comes up again and again in conversations in Detroit. There isn’t a single major chain supermarket in the city, forcing residents to buy food from corner stores. Often less healthy and more expensive food.

As the area’s economy worsens –unemployment was over 16% in July — food stamp applications and pantry visits have surged.

Wow!  No major supermarkets?!  Again, not something I would expect anywhere in America.  Chicago has had to forcibly keep Walmart out of the city.  You would think Walmart would thrive in depressed urban setting like Detroit.  People are always amazed that there was no supermarket in the town I grew up in, but there’s only 750 people there.  Driving a half hour to the supermarket wasn’t that big of deal.  Getting in the car and driving out to the ‘burbs isn’t really an option for most people  in the city.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though as the article points out.

Detroiters have responded to this crisis. Huge amounts of vacant land has led to a resurgence in urban farming. Volunteers at local food pantries have also increased.


Detroiters are also helping themselves in smaller ways. Thanks to the dearth of big supermarkets in Detroit proper – a phenomenon largely attributed to lack of people – and plenty of vacant land, community gardening has caught on big.

It’s not so much that these gardens are going to feed the city, although they certainly help. It’s more that they can be used to teach people, especially children, the value of eating right.

“I use vegetables every day,” said one child at an after school gardening program run by Earthworks Urban Farm, near the heart of the city. “Last night, an onion I picked from here, I had in my potatoes.”

Very cool.




2 responses

18 08 2009

Insurance costs are very high due to way-above-average levels of shoplifting and theft in much of the city.

Apart from its size, if you compare other deeply impoverished, albeit smaller, cities, it is not uncommon to lack grocery stores.

As for Walmart, they will not go into a community where they will face strong resistance and backlash from organized labor (I’m not trying to bash unions, but that is their corporate stance. That was a issue when Walmart looked at a South Side location in Chicago. I don’t know if it ever got resolved.).

Farmer Jack, being founded in Detroit, ran a number of Detroit stores, even after A&P bought them. But Ohio-based Kroger did not believe they were profitable enough and sold them.

19 08 2009
Mid-Michigan Dining

The deal in Chicago was living wage…not so much labor unions. The Lt. Gov. at the time (now Governor) was trying to push a living wage bill statewide that would pretty much only effect Walmart SuperCenters. The City of Chicago has done the same. The one that is actually in the city snuck in under the living wage ordinance and was grandfathered in.

I still think it’s sad that no one in Detroit has any purcahsing power. The corner grocery stores should band together and form a buying co-op. They’re not really competing with each other if they each serve their neighborhood. You’d think it’d be a priority for the City Council….you’d think.

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