By Jon Dalton
Reluctantly setting aside the lofty and complicated socioeconomic maladies Michigan’s largest city faces, and even more reluctantly setting aside possible solutions, there is one issue that everybody living in Detroit knows about more than any student of sociology. For too long a time now, Detroiters have had to drive at least ten miles out of their way to get the groceries they need.
This isn’t to say that there are no places to get groceries in Detroit. Honey Bee Market, Eastern Market, University Food Center, a downright enviable amount of private convenient stores and plenty of places that sell food secondarily such as CVS Pharmacy are all great places to get certain items and can absolutely provide enough to tide an average not-too-picky shopper over. For an area as bustling as the Motor City, however, it just isn’t enough.
Try this: Think of your favorite chain grocery store, the place you can get everything you need and cheap! Now open another tab (don’t use this one!) and google that store. Now click on google maps and take a moment to bask in the awe of the convenience that is the twenty first century and how quickly you can get almost anything should the mood strike. In the event of a nuclear war, Global Warming doom, a SARS outbreak or even a zombie attack, you can rest assured knowing you can fully stock your underground bunker without breaking the bank. Now go back to the search bar with your favorite store and type “Detroit” next to it. Notice anything? A standoffish bubble around a certain city, maybe?
It might be the fault of ineffectual city planners, it might be that your favorite store didn’t care to help Detroit out, or it could be that the amount of crime in every inch of the city simply makes doing business here more trouble than it’s worth. Whatever the reason, the abundance, quality, convenience and thrift of major chain grocery stores is something Detroit is going to have to do without. This is just tough luck for those men and women who work long hours and only have later at night to shop, anyone who prefers a certain variety and doesn’t have transportation, or for a family on a budget who like to buy in bulk and keep an eye out for sales. But really, how many people fitting those descriptions could be in Detroit?
Hypothetically, if just one superstore planted itself firmly in an accessible location of the city how much might the roughly 30% of Detroiters who are on food stamps save on grocery costs? How much gas money would they get to keep? How many lives could be improved in untold ways by someone simply having one thing they need to help them through the week? Let’s not even deal with the jobs that would be created or we might start getting depressed.
Sociologists have noticed the lack of grocery stores in urban areas vs. suburbs in other cities as well, on the off chance that anyone out there isn’t tired of hearing this though, analysts say it’s particularly bad in Detroit. As usual, assigning blame is too easy… and too difficult, and if anyone isn’t doing all they can to fix the problem, they surely know who hey are. Let’s just make sure that if and when a Wal-Mart, Kroger, Meijer, etc. decides to join our city, the first thing they see is a welcome mat and a group of eager shoppers waiting with bells on… and food stamps…