Community Food Network to Build Black-Led Grocery Store in Detroit
It has been over a year since the first signs of the coronavirus hit Michigan. Since the pandemic, many socioeconomic factors have been highlighted in communities of color. Financial pitfalls and health matters have all been brought to the forefront in the midst of this international crisis. Access to fresh food is one of the … Continued The post Community Food Network to Build Black-Led Grocery Store in Detroit appeared first on The Michigan Chronicle.
It has been over a year since the first signs of the coronavirus hit Michigan. Since the pandemic, many socioeconomic factors have been highlighted in communities of color. Financial pitfalls and health matters have all been brought to the forefront in the midst of this international crisis.
Access to fresh food is one of the major issues in many underrepresented communities. A local Detroit activist and farmer is working to bring the city a sustainable source for food and an opportunity to become a part of a piece of history in Detroit by building one of the city’s few Black-led grocery stores.
Malik Yakini is the Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Formed in 2006 to bring awareness to food insecurities across Detroit’s Black neighborhoods. DBCFSN supports some local markets, grocers, and restaurants through its operations with D-Town Farm, the largest Detroit farm and garden community.
During the pandemic, an increasing amount of families relied on food pantries to fill the void where they could not traditionally grocery shop. Despite various urban farms rising to the occasion, the issues surrounding food in the Black community still remain.
“It’s critical (food security). I mean clearly, food is one of our most vital needs. We don’t survive without it for too long. So, I would venture to say there are very few things more important than our access to high-quality food,” says Yakini. “At the present time, clearly we don’t control that access in the city of Detroit.”
Now, with the help of DBCFSN and some local community owners, Detroit’s Black residents will soon see a space where purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, with no additives or pesticides, will be right in their own backyards.
“We think that food cooperatives are one of the key things that need to be developed in Black communities if we’re going to control the food supply in our communities
Although the farm is working to create sustainable food options and healthy produce for the city’s Black population, the community at large will be able to support the food co-op. To continue to garner support for food initiatives, the community is encouraged to support urban agriculture, shop at farmers’ markets, and or grow small personal gardens.
“Even if we just start with small things so that agriculture is becoming more a part of the popular culture among Black people again would be a helpful step towards being more self-reliant in terms of food,” says Yakini.
To help combat the issue of food for Detroit, the executive director, together with a band of farmers and other community advocates, have come together to purchase land in the city’s North End neighborhood, on Woodward and Euclid, to build what will be known as the Detroit People’s Food Co-op.
“Currently, we have 1,164 member-owners; people who have paid $200 to essentially buy a share of the business. For those 1,100 people are all the owners of a business,” Yakini says.
After some years of planning, preparing, surveying Detroiters, and focus groups, the ball got rolling on plans to build the food co-op.
“There have been many many steps in the process. The most arduous part of the process has been obtaining the land that we’re building this on. That took us a number of years,” says Yakini. “Also obtaining all of the financings. At this point, it’s about a $17 million-dollar project.”
Taking up to ten years, food co-op’s can be a heavy lift. Despite the timeline, having total control and autonomy to own and operate the food space and the actual building, which will be the Detroit Food Commons, was essential to the community owners. Having to navigate gathering funds needed to launch the multi-level building that will house the grocery store, shared community space, and incubator kitchens proved to be no easy feat.
“In the last five months, we’ve been able to raise about $5 million in grant money from local foundations,” says Yakini.
Plans to begin construction on the multi-use building are set to begin in late summer 2020. The buildout is expected to take anywhere from nine months to one year to be complete, pending the effects of the pandemic and the severity of the winter months. The food co-op is expected to open its doors in 2022.
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