Detroit as ‘Food Desert’ Debunked

Grassroots Movement Shatters Myth That Detroit Is A ‘Food Desert’

Eastern Market | Detroit’s Food Hub

In many people’s minds, Detroit stands apart from other major American cities as an unredeemable disaster.  It’s a lost cause, they say, and we’d do better investing scarce resources toward revitalizing other cities with better prospects for the future. So what makes Detroit different in the public imagination than other cities grappling with population loss, budget deficits, unemployment, crime, racial divisions and political corruption?  In large part, it’s disinformation. For example, the widespread belief that the city is a food desert with no supermarkets or any sources of fresh produce is, like many myths about Detroit that have grown up over the past 30 years, simply not true.

Actually Detroit sports more than 80 groceries, ranging from full service supermarkets to well-stocked neighborhood and ethnic stores. In May, Whole Foods broke ground for a new store in Midtown and Meijer’s, a well-regarded supermarket chain based in Grand Rapids, started construction on a superstore on the West Side. Most Detroit supermarkets are family run, such as the beloved Honeybee La Colmena in Southwest Detroit, which grew up from a bodega and now features a produce section, meat counter, and Latin foods selection to rival big box retailers. Co-owner Tammy Alfaro-Koehler, grand-daughter of the founder, declares, “We are a full-service store, but we don’t want to be an anonymous big store we’re part of the neighborhood.”

Tens of thousands of local residents do their weekly shopping at Eastern Market, one of the nation’s largest public markets, which features produce and prepared goods from 250 regional growers and vendors as well as surrounding blocks filled with a bakery, meat market, seafood store, specialty gourmet shops, America’s “oldest corned beef specialist,” an halal slaughterhouse, numerous restaurants and other tempting food related businesses. “We have some vendors who have been here for generations, like one old farmer who remembers selling produce here with his grandfather when he was six,” says Jela Ellefson, Grants and Special Projects Coordinator, who joined Eastern Market through the Detroit Revitalization Fellow Project – a Wayne State University project that connects rising professionals with organizations on the forefront of revitalization efforts in the city.

Detroit is a blossoming leader in the urban agriculture movement, says Ellefson, with more than 1,500 farms within the city limits ranging from vacant lots to a 7-acre spread on the West Side planted by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Just two blocks from Eastern Market you’ll find neat rows of tomatoes, peas, salad greens, onions, beets, collards, okra, kale, leeks, rhubarb and fruit trees at the 2 1/2-acre Grown in Detroit cooperative farm, one of the several plots around the city run by the group Greening of Detroit. All of this certainly defies Detroit’s reputation as a food desert…PLEASE READ MORE.

Author | Jay Walljasper, the author of The Great Neighborhood Book and All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons, is a Senior Associate with Citiscope and Senior Fellow with Project for Public Spaces.

Source |


About C. Rae White

I'm a proud 6th generation Detroiter, a creative who loves working with my hands and a fashion fanatic with a thing for shoes, bags and jewelry. I'm a family researcher who loves discovering the details of my ancestors lives. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Detroit, Food and drink, Organizations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Detroit as ‘Food Desert’ Debunked

  1. I like that, places where you can get fresh and local produce. You really using your blog to spread the positive bout the “D”! Good work!

  2. C. Rae White says:

    Thanks! I love my city!

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