How the rise of supermarkets left out black America

By Nathaniel Meyersohn

Detroit, a city of around 700,000 residents, 78% of whom are black, is a case study for how the trend of supermarket chains pulling out of black areas in cities and focusing on middle-class suburbs is playing out. In 2013, Whole Foods opened in Detroit. For years, Detroit did not have a major supermarket chain in the city. There are just three major supermarkets in the city — Two regional chain Meijer stores and a Whole Foods. For seven years in the mid-2000s, Detroit didn't even have a large grocery chain, in part the result of a long history of white flight from the city and underinvestment. Around 30,000 people in Detroit don't have access to a full-scale grocer, according to a 2017 Detroit Food Policy Council report, and there are no black-owned grocery stores in the city. The majority of the city is served by around 70 independent grocery stores, said Alex Hill, director of the Detroit Food Map Initiative and an adjunct professor in Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies. The story in two neighboring white counties is decidedly different. Washtenaw County had eight major supermarkets, and Macomb County had 27 major supermarkets, according to Hill. "Locally, we've seen grocer flight," he said. "You can find Kroger stores in a ring around the city, but none inside the border of Detroit." Kroger declined to comment.

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