The number of full-service grocery stores has declined in Detroit

Fewer residents have easy access to high-quality grocery stores than they did five years ago, according to a new report from the Detroit Food Policy Council.

Grocery store aisle.

The number of grocery stores has gone down in Detroit. A new report from the Detroit Food Policy Council, a food security and sustainability advocacy group, says the number of full-line grocery stores in the city dropped from 74 to 64 between 2017 and 2020.

“When we had 74 grocery stores, there was only five percent of the city that was considered a food desert,” says Winona Bynum, Executive Director of the Detroit Food Policy Council. “That’s too much because there should be no part of the city where people can’t easily get the food that they need for a healthy lifestyle and to thrive.”

“There should be no part of the city where people can’t easily get the food that they need for a healthy lifestyle” — Winona Bynum, Detroit Food Policy Council

“Food desert” is a term used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that’s defined for an urban area as a census tract that has a poverty rate above 19 percent or a median family income lower than 81% where at least 500 people or 33% of the census tract live more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. Bynum says, “In the community, we generally don’t use that [term] as much, but it is a USDA designation.”

Bynum says the reasons stores close vary. Sometimes the owner of a family-owned grocery store retires and no one else in the family wants to run the business, or sometimes a grocery store stops being profitable or can’t find the workforce it needs to be successful.

“We’ve seen a lot of pressure on our individual, independently-owned grocery stores,” she says.

While grocery stores have been on the decline, Bynum says two of them, including the Meijer Rivertown Market on E. Jefferson Ave, opened in Detroit in 2021. At least two more are expected to open in the near future: the Detroit People’s Co-op in New Center and Neighborhood Grocery, an “equity-crowdfunded” store  in Jefferson Chalmers.

 

A graph showing that grocery stores declined in Detroit between 2020 and 2017.
A graph shows that grocery stores declined in Detroit between 2017 and 2020.

 

WDET learned about this report from a piece by Jena Brooker in Bridge Detroit.

 

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  • Laura Herberg

    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.