Greater Grocer Project in Detroit Debuts
Community organizations in Detroit have formed the Detroit Grocery Coalition to build closer relationships between Detroit grocery stores and customers. // Photo courtesy Wayne State University
Wayne State University in Detroit, the Detroit Food Policy Council, and members of the Detroit Grocery Coalition announced the Great Grocer Project, a program designed to strengthen relationships between independent grocery stores and their customers.
The program will also provide support to increase awareness and sales of natural foods in the Detroit neighborhoods.
There are nearly 70 full-service grocery stores in the city, almost all of which are family or independently owned. The program is funded as a three-year project by the US Department of Agriculture and funded for one year by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
It is led by the Wayne State University College of Education’s Center for Health and Community Impact and the Detroit Food Policy Council. Its purpose is to encourage grocers to improve the health and economic vitality of the population through leading and developing research, programs and strategies for healthy living.
The project will also train and host fellows in seven community organizations that will set up a grocery store in each Detroit district. The Fellows will work with shopkeepers to help them better compete with large grocery stores by improving their relationships and communication with customers, and by performing food and nutrition assessments in their stores.
Coalition partners and members include the City of Detroit Health Department and Sustainability Department, Detroit Economic Growth Corp., Detroit Food Map Initiative, Eastern Market, Midwest Independent Retailers Association, Fair Food Network, and National Kidney Foundation in Michigan.
“Too often Detroiters choose to shop outside of town to get their groceries and healthy groceries,” says Rachael Dombrowski, who co-directs the project and is assistant professor of community health education in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, Health and Health is Exercise Studies as well as a research fellow at the Center for Health and Community Impact.
“We want to reverse this tide and showcase grocers who offer quality, affordable and healthy food to their customers in the city. By working directly with store owners and community organizations, we seek to improve their relationships, the Detroit food landscape, and the general economic vitality of the communities. “
Dombrowski’s research focuses on community-based programs to improve nutritional and health outcomes and promote food justice.
The project will also work with 10 world-class stores to improve their marketing and display of healthy foods by enhancing the appearance of certain areas of the store, creating recipes and shelf labels for nutritious foods, and enabling environmental improvements.
“We saw the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic in our communities and now we know how effective good nutrition can be in preventing death from coronavirus,” said Winona Bynum, executive director of the Detroit Food Policy Council and co-director of the project .
“We also learned the importance of having access to a healthy grocery store over the past year. We look forward to continuing to work with our Detroit grocers and our community partners to improve access to the high quality, nutrient-dense foods needed for good health now and well beyond this pandemic. “