The North Flint Food Market Cooperative (NFFM) will be the first cooperative grocery store in Genesee County. According to Edgar Clarke, NFFM member and Community Outreach and Marketing Coordinator with the North Flint Reinvestment Corporation, the need for a food co-op came about a few years back, during the water crisis when grocery stores in the North Flint area closed, such as Kroger and Meijer. “Residents needed grocery stores in the area,” Clarke explains. “They recognized the need for access to fresh, healthy groceries in the community.” And, accessing healthy food is a challenge for many families, particularly those living in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and rural areas, he adds. “The NFFM will provide Flint families with access to high-quality food, from locally-sourced produce to organic products.”
A food co-op is different from a traditional grocery store, in that it is owned by its members. Residents, businesses and organizations have purchased memberships as an investment into the store’s development. Currently, there are approximately 500 members, with a goal of 1,500. Memberships can be purchased for a one-time cost of $250 for individuals and $500 for businesses and organizations. Payments can be made through a monthly installment plan.
According to Clarke, the market will be located in North Flint, along the Pierson Road corridor. “We are still in the process of finding a location and securing real estate,” he adds. The NFFM project is currently in the member-growth stage, but a potential location has been identified at the corner of Pierson and Clio Roads. The site previously housed a DHS building, but some health hazards were identified and it is currently green space. “We expect to build in 2020,” he says, adding that a co-op typically takes five-plus years to get off the ground.
The goal will be to create careers, not just jobs, for residents of nearby neighborhoods.
According to the NFFM website, everyone will have the ability to purchase food at the market when it opens, however, co-op members will receive additional perks. When the market opens for business, residents will have access to healthy food produced with sustainable agricultural practices. Shoppers will be able to purchase products from organic farms and small-scale family producers.
The NFFM will also provide employment and job-training opportunities. The goal will be to create careers, not just jobs, for residents of nearby neighborhoods. Individuals who work at the market will have advancement opportunities allowing them to establish long-term employment.
“The NFFM will provide Flint families with access to high-quality food, from locally-sourced produce to organic products.”
Edgar Clarke, Community Outreach & Marketing Coordinator, North Flint Reinvestment Corporation
The member slogan, “We Own It” demonstrates the true investment every member makes in the co-op. To encourage growth, members have been meeting monthly, Clarke reports, which has reinforced their common goal. “It pulls all of us together as a unified group – to work together, eat together and grow together as a community.”
North Flint Food Market Launches Youth Initiative
With support from Diplomat Pharmacy, Inc., NFFM recently launched their Youth Cooperative Initiative. Program participants – young people who live within the 48504, 48505 and portions of the 48458 zip codes – will learn about the principles of ownership, empowerment and investment. To apply for the program, individuals must be age 16-24. The program is currently taking applications for 100 spots and is designed to teach about nutrition, health and business.
Diplomat recently awarded funding to the NFFM, which will cover the costs for the first youth program participants. Diplomat President, Joel Saban said, “We want to promote healthy and active lifestyles in our community, so we support programs in the area with a similar goal. This youth initiative targets parts of the city where young people have been heavily impacted by the water crisis. There is a great need for healthy food access for individuals in those areas who have limited ability to get food from a grocery store.”
Besides having healthy food access, youth will participate in sessions targeted at the business aspects of the co-op. “The program is also creating a safe environment to help kids start thinking about business and their future careers. Learning financial literacy will help broaden their perspective by exposing them to business principles,” added Saban.
Applicants accepted into the program are required to complete 30 hours of service which includes participation in NFFM member meetings, financial literacy and healthy living classes. The NFFM will be partnering with health, educational and financial institutions to develop content for the courses. After completing the 30 hours, participants will receive a co-op membership valued at $250.
Source: Press Release Sept. 13, 2018
Photography By Kayce McClure