Providing Healthy Food Options to Area Residents, Create Economic Growth
- New grocery store on Flint’s north side will bring access to fresh foods to local residents
- Vacant site will be revitalized into food co-op, giving ownership opportunities to members of the community; 836 member owners already on board
- Public-private partnership includes support from numerous government and nonprofit organizations
Gov. Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation recently to announce that a new co-op urban grocery store will soon be coming to the north side of Flint with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund.
Intended to provide much-needed, affordable, healthy food options to area residents, the project will revitalize a long-vacant building and help address health issues in the documented “food desert” of North Flint. The project will provide walkable access to fresh foods and produce and is also expected to generate a total capital investment of $7 million while creating 27 permanent, full-time equivalent jobs.
“The new full-service grocery store in North Flint will help residents with the access to healthy, fresh food they deserve, and offer a community space that will create jobs, This community partnership and investment is delivering on this longstanding need in the community and helping to build the path for economic growth and recovery in Flint. The store will feed families, create jobs, and help us continue our economic jumpstart,” Governor Whitmer stated.
The North Flint Reinvestment Corporation project will redevelop a vacant building into a new co-op urban grocery store development located at the corner of Pierson and Clio Roads on the north side of Flint. When completed, the North Flint Food Market will include a full-service grocery store providing reliable access to fresh foods to residents of the community. The co-operative ownership model gives residents and supporters an opportunity to invest in their neighborhood, with more than 836 member owners already signed on as members in support of the need for this project in the community.
The Michigan Strategic Fund today approved a $1.25 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant in support of the project. The city of Flint is providing $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds in support of the project. Flint is engaged with MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program.
This project is a priority for the city of Flint, reactivating a functionally obsolete building and creating a much-needed grocery store that is otherwise not available in the vicinity. The city of Flint has suffered over the past years from chronic disinvestment by the departure of living‐wage employers and regional supermarket operators, and from the effects of the Flint water crisis that impacted children and families who continue to confront long‐term health issues as a result. The availability of nutritious food can mitigate the detrimental effects of lead poisoning. Establishing a grocery store at this location meets the need for reliable access to fresh foods for people in this community.
“Having access to fresh, affordable food is vital for the well-being of all Michiganders, especially for those living in ‘food deserts’ who have the additional barriers of excessive costs and lack of transportation to get to grocery stores outside of their neighborhoods,” said MEDC Senior Vice President of Community Development Michele Wildman. “We’re pleased to work with the many partners who have brought this much-needed market to the North Flint community, and we look forward to seeing additional economic activity and investment in the area in the coming months and years.”
The project will also promote walkability in the neighborhood and is expected to increase confidence in the local economy, create new tax revenue, eliminate the “food desert” status, and encourage other property investors and owners to undertake renovation projects in the area.
“Having affordable and healthy grocery options throughout the community with a focus on the north side, one of the most underserved areas, is needed,” said Mayor Sheldon Neeley. “The North Flint Food Market in the Pierson Road Corridor will be a welcomed lighthouse of hope for healthier food resources for Flint families.”
In addition to the 836 member owners, the project has received significant local community contributions and financial support from a number of organizations, including the Ruth Mott Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, CS Mott Foundation, and Healthy Food Financing Initiative.
“The North Flint Food Market Co-Op is a community-driven effort that expands access to affordable, healthy food that mitigates the effects of lead exposure for Flint families,” said Isaiah M. Oliver, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. “The goals of the Food Co-Op align with the grant making strategy of the Flint Kids Fund and we are pleased to support this project with a $500,000 grant that fills a gap in north Flint’s food desert.”
“Access to affordable, fresh, healthy food is a priority for residents of north Flint,” said Ruth Mott Foundation President Raquel Thueme. “We’re proud to be part of a diverse coalition supporting this resident-owned and -driven enterprise to strengthen the local economy and lay the groundwork for longer-term health and economic development benefits in north Flint.”
The developer of the project is the North Flint Reinvestment Corporation (NFRC), a nonprofit led by Dr. Reginald Flynn, that started working on this project in 2016, on the heels of the Flint water crisis and the closure of a grocery store in the neighborhood in 2014. NFRC has received broad support of investment partners in the public, non-profit and private sectors in bringing this project to fruition. The work has been informed by a report commissioned by the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce (now the Flint & Genesee Group), with the support of MSF funding, to study the best method to improve access to full-service grocery stores on the north end of Flint. Retail market and grocery store industry expert, Streetsense, determined that in Flint’s north end there was market demand significant enough to create two new smaller-scale grocery stores, while upgrading and sustaining existing solvent grocery stores operating in the north Flint market.
“This project is a direct response to the Flint water crisis and the subsequent departure of major grocery retailers in the Pierson Road corridor. The store closures adversely impacted low-income, African-American families in north Flint. The USDA has designated this corridor a food desert. However, this area more aptly is experiencing food apartheid with minimal access to healthy, affordable food,” Flynn said. “These are concrete reasons why North Flint Reinvestment mobilized residents, city, state and federal agencies, the philanthropic community, local corporations and micro-businesses, and the faith community to finance the North Flint Food Market. I am particularly thankful to MEDC and our other funding partners for investing much-needed resources in an area that has historically experienced disinvestment. We are confident this will lead to further development in the corridor.”
“We are excited to see this co-op grocery store finally come to life so that we can ensure residents of North Flint have access to fresh and healthy foods,” said Geri Clark, President of the North Flint Neighborhood Action Council (NFNAC). “With community members as owners of the grocery store, we can assure that dollars spent in our community will stay here in our community.”
“The North Flint Food Market will serve an important role in expanding access to fresh, healthy foods in the north Flint community,” said Tim Herman, CEO of Flint & Genesee Group. “Pastor Flynn stayed focused on his vision and brought many partners together to make this much-needed grocery store a reality. We were glad to support him in this effort and wish him much success.”