Food Policy Project Onboarding

Background on the Detroit Food Policy Council

The Detroit Food Policy Council* (DFPC) is committed to nurturing the development and maintenance of a sustainable, localized food system and a food-secure City of Detroit in which all of its residents are hunger-free, healthy, and benefit economically from the food system that impacts their lives. With representatives from various sectors of the food system, the Mayor’s Office, City Council and The Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, DFPC  is an implementation, monitoring and advisory body.

We envision a city of Detroit with a healthy, vibrant, hunger-free populace that has easy access to fresh produce and other healthy food choices; a city in which the residents are educated about healthy food choices, and understand their relationship to the food system; a city in which urban agriculture, composting and other sustainable practices contribute to its economic vitality; and a city in which all of its residents, workers, guests and visitors are treated with respect, justice and dignity by those from whom they obtain food. 

- DFPC Vision statement

Summary of Partnership

PHAST began partnering with DFPC during Fall term 2018-2019 to develop tools that help stakeholders in each Detroit City Council District better understand their local food environments. Initially, this work was meant to inform the development of localized policy briefs that illuminate challenges, opportunities, and potential health and economic ROI for investment in policy areas identified by DFPC and the Detroit Health Department (DHD). In order to help DFPC and DHD with the development of these policy briefs, PHAST students identified stakeholders in each council district that DFPC and DHD should reach with policy recommendations. 

Beginning Winter term 2019, the team of students divvied up the council districts to develop community
descriptions that identify challenges, assets, and potential opportunities in each district. These profiles of each council district include demographics, community-identified assets, stories from each district’s food environment, a retail food environment map, a profile on the primary decision-maker in each district -- the elected city council representative and their team, and the aforementioned list of stakeholders. 

In addition to the profiles, PHAST developed a map of Detroit’s food environment that includes retail food locations (grocery stores, dollar stores, and farmer’s markets) and food pantries along with measures of food access. The food access data comes from PolicyMap and the Reinvestment Fund's Limited Supermarket Analysis. Layered together, this map can help stakeholders identify areas that present opportunities for intervention.

In academic year 2019-2020, PHAST has presented to DFPC and the Grocery Coalition and is developing a workshop in collaboration with DFPC so that others engaged in food system work in Detroit can use these tools as a way to contextualize their local food environments. Beyond the workshop, the team would like to refine their work to develop neighborhood level analyses of the food environment, beginning with 3 neighborhoods in a single council district that have been identified as gentrifying, historically stable, or low-opportunity.

Past Projects + Products

Report that provides a point-in-time snapshot of Detroit’s retail food environment delineated by city council district and census block group. The report begins with an overview of our process for mapping Detroit for this project, including selection criteria and limitations of the work. Once these are described the report provides community profiles for each council district, including demographic data from the American Community Survey 2013-2017, community-identified assets, stories from each district’s food environment, a retail food environment map, a profile on the primary decision-maker in each district -- the elected city council representative and their team, and finally each community profile ends with a list of additional stakeholders. For an overview see this slide deck.

PHAST team members conducted interviews with several stakeholders working with organizations that operate in the Detroit Food System, including food non-profits, sustainability organizations, and a city councilperson. The goal of these interviews was to identify messages that resonate with different stakeholders, identify their values, current challenges and assets, and how they typically seek out and prefer to receive information. See - Stakeholder Interview Guide

Presentation to the Grocery Store Coalition, which is a collection of food system stakeholders interested in improving access to healthy food for all Detroiters through a variety of mechanisms. This presentation was about the work the team did to map the indicators of the retail food environment in Detroit and how this work may support the coalition. 

Detroit Limited Supermarket Analysis Indicators and Food Environment Map

This map utilizes 3 indicators from the Reinvestment Fund's Limited Supermarket Analysis (LSA) along with location data on the retail and emergency food environment in Detroit to better understand place-based access to food in Detroit. The Reinvestment Fund's Limited Supermarket Analysis indicators may also serve as selection criteria for various technical and financial tools that can be made available to stakeholders working to address access to healthy food.

Key Terms
  • Limited Supermarket Analysis (2016)
    • A set of analytical tools developed by the Reinvestment Fund to help various stakeholders better understand the retail food environment. These tools, Retail Food Leakage, Limited Supermarket Access, and Low Access Score can be used in assorted ways to support food system work. They serve as eligibility criteria for various funding and technical assistance opportunities (e.g. Healthy Food Financing Initiative, impact investing, and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program) and can also be used to enrich applications that address community-identified challenges in Detroit’s food environment. 
    • These tools can also be paired with other data sets (e.g. race & ethnicity, gender, health outcomes, income) to provide additional context. For the purposes of this project we paired these analyses with dollar stores, retail food providers, farmers markets, and food pantries. Additionally, the Reinvestment Fund updates these indicators every few years and has begun to track changes in these indicators over time
  • Indicator 1: Retail Food Leakage (2016) 
    • Provides an estimate of the number of dollars, rounded to the nearest $1,000, that leave a census block group annually relative to population density and car availability. It’s a measure of demand and access, the darker the shade, the less well-served by food retailers.
    • 31% of Detroit’s census block groups experience lost revenue/retail food leakage. The census block groups that experience lost revenue lose a median of $493,000 each. Taken together, these block groups experience nearly $226 million in lost revenue. This indicator can be used to make the business case for investment in food retailers.

  • Indicator 2: Limited Supermarket Access Area (2016)

    • Indicates areas that face inadequate and inequitable access to food. In this analysis factors such as population (5,000+ people), income, car ownership, and distance to existing full-line grocers are considered. About 16% of census block groups in Detroit are identified as LSA areas. Census block groups that are identified as LSA in our analysis* are mostly served by food pantries and dollar stores.
  • Indicator 3: Low Access Score
    • Indicates the percent by which a block group’s distance to the nearest supermarket must be reduced to equal the reference distance for that block group’s population density and car ownership class. Low Access Scores indicate the degree to which residents are underserved by supermarkets, so residents of a block group with a higher Low Access Score must travel longer distances to access a supermarket than residents of block groups with lower Low Access Scores. As an example, a person living in District 7, census block group 261635352002 would need to reduce their Low Access Score by 54% in order to have truly equitable access to a grocery store. The only food provider in this census block group is the C&W Community Outreach food pantry.
  • Taken together, these analyses provide granularity, context, and selection criteria for access to various financial and technical tools.

Sources: Policy Map, Reinvestment Fund, Reference USA, Detroit Food Policy Council, Detroit Community Markets, Detroit Food Map, City of Detroit Open Data Portal, PantryNet 


Recommended Readings 

Historical Context - DFPC
Peer Reviewed Articles
Dollar Stores