Detroiters health impacted by disappearing grocery stores

Posted at 6:14 PM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 18:22:49-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The latest Detroit food metrics report shows that Detroit has lost 10 grocery stores since 2017. The Family Dollar on Jefferson was a grocery store up until recent years.

"There was a food express grocery store, it was a pillar for many years," said Joy Horton, manager at Family Dollar.

Joy Horton is a beloved manager at the Family Dollar. She told 7 Action News' Sarah Grimmer many of her customers talk to her about having to leave the city to get their groceries.

According to a recent food metrics report from the Detroit Food Policy Council, there were 74 traditional grocery stores in the city in 2017, now there's 64.

"I don't want to go outside my realm. What if I can't make those measurements?" said Horton.

At Family Dollar you can get access to some affordable food, but it's healthy, organic food that the city is really lacking access to making the city a "food desert."

"That's not optimal for community health," said Amy Kuras, research & policy program manager, Detroit Food Policy Council.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a "food desert" is a low-income area where many residents have trouble accessing healthy food.

Amy Kuras helped put the food metrics report together. Her research notes that in Detroit four out of every 10 adults are obese. The access to full-service grocery stores is physically unhealthy.

"And a large part of that is because grocery stores are a very low margin business, I think they run about a 1-3% profit margin and so when there's any kind of disruption like occurred during the pandemic, that can really hit a lot of stores really hard," Kuras said.

Historically, the city has lacked grocery stores, but the pandemic has made the problem worse. One solution the food metrics report cites is that the city did gain nearly 23 community gardens during the pandemic.

"I would prefer myself personally to be my own farmer," Horton said.

It's helpful, but not a full solution.

According to a 2012 study from the Fair Food Network, Detroiters spend nearly $200 million each year on groceries in the suburbs. Using an inflation calculator, we can estimate that number is now around $258 million.

Horton says she hopes to see more full-service grocery stores in her city soon.

"It's a U.S. Citizen, right? I think we ought to be able to pick and choose from where we want," Horton added.

For those looking to keep their grocery store dollars in the city, Parkway Foods on Jefferson is a Detroit favorite.