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Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Project Title

Ujamaa Food Co-op


Detroit, Michigan

Grant Type

Feasibility Study

Target Beneficiaries

Urban, small and limited resource farmers, African American consumers

Project Duration

1 year

Model Type

Co-op, Buying Club

The Model & Approach

 The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) will conduct a feasibility study to assess the viability of a retail food cooperative in the City of Detroit and develop a comprehensive business plan. This community-based food enterprise will make healthy foods more accessible to underserved Detroiters and be a model of community-driven and led self-determination. The focus of their work is in Detroit’s Black community, where the majority of families have limited good food choices. In 2008, DBCFSN initiated the Ujamaa Food Co-op Buying Club, which allows members to order bulk food items once a month through a national health food distributor. The goal is to provide access to healthy food, including organic produce from their farm and other local growers, to a larger percentage of Detroiters by developing a cooperative food store. The feasibility study will allow DBCFSN to do the market research and strategic planning necessary to develop the coop store envisioned into a full business plan. The reviewers were impressed by the leadership and strength of the leaders and key stakeholders and collaborators in the project. This food coop would emerge from black leadership to serve the black community with a strong emphasis on local sourcing to address unmet consumer demand.

Statement of Need

One of every three adults and nearly three of every ten children and adolescents in Detroit are considered obese. This problem culminated in 2007 when Farmer Jack, the last major grocery store chain serving the city, closed its doors. Many areas within Detroit are now designated as “food insecure” as eighty percent of the city’s residents must purchase their food at one of the many fringe food retailers, such as liquor stores, gas stations, convenience stores, party stores, dollar stores, bakeries, pharmacies, and other venues. These stores offer few if any healthy food choices and often charge higher prices than comparable stores in the suburbs.

Project Objectives

Because there is currently no food co-op store in Detroit, or the surrounding suburbs, the DBCFSN retail food cooperative will serve a growing numbers of families that now shop at farmers’ markets from June to October, many using their SNAP  benefits, which will keep retail food dollars inside of the city. Objectives include: 1) Contract with a Research and Business Planning Consultant; 2) Complete a Community Needs Assessment and Market Research; and 3) Analyze Data from Community Needs Assessment and Market Research; 4) Develop Business Plan for Retail Food Cooperative. 

Organization Overview

Since 2006, DBCFSN is a coalition of organizations and individuals that are working to build self-reliance, food security and food justice in Detroit's Black community. They currently operate D-Town Farm, the Ujamaa Food Co-op Buying Club, the Food Warriors Youth Development Program, and the “What’s for Dinner” Lecture Series in partnership with the Detroit Public Library. They are the driving force behind the creation of the Detroit Food Policy Council, and currently have three members who serve on the council advocating for Detroiter’s around food issues.