Detroit People’s Food Co-op: More than Just a Grocery Store

09/1/2014

Billie Hickey, Kwamena Mensah and Bill Hickey at the membership drive. Image courtesy of Shakara Tyler. (view larger image)

Billie Hickey, Kwamena Mensah and Bill Hickey at the membership drive. Image courtesy of Shakara Tyler.

By Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and Shakara Tyler, Underserved Farmer Development Specialist at the Center for Regional Food Systems

On July 12, 2014, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network  (DBCFSN) kicked off the membership drive for the Detroit People’s Food Co-op at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History. This community owned and community empowered venture envisions the co-op being more than a grocery store but a community gathering space with a public theater and garden that primarily serves the residents in Detroit’s north end. To fund the development of the co-op, DBCFSN has started the Land Acquisition Fund to raise funds to buy land for building the co-op. With membership equity fees paid by community members, donations, grant funding, and financing, the co-op plans to open for business in late 2015. The co-op grocery store grows out of the established DBCFSN Ujamaa Co-op Buying Club, where members are able to purchase a wide variety of healthy foods, supplements, and household items at discounted prices. Keeping in the Kwanzaa principle of Ujamma (cooperative economics), the community institution has goals to provide access to high-quality, healthy food options to those most impacted by poor access, model community-ownership and food justice strategies, and serve as a a community education center for information on health, well-being, justice, and resilience.

Food cooperatives possess historical and cultural significances to underserved communities. In a capitalistic system, cooperatives are considered to be the best solution to address systemic economic injustices. Typical larger grocery stores may be owned by a corporation that extracts wealth from the community. Cooperatives are grassroots examples of reorganizing the capitalistic structure by enacting democracy for the collective benefit of local residents rather than individual profit-driven monopolies. In an era of concentrated wealth, food cooperatives possess the power to dismantle an inequitable system that prioritizes profits over people.

The Detroit People’s Food Co-op expands the control people possess over their food by increasing their purchasing power and controlling where the food comes from. The goal is to source from as many local growers as possible – particularly Black growers – to circulate dollars in the community.

Please contact  DBCFSN  at www.detroitblackfoodsecurity.org for more information on how to donate and get involved.