(FLINT, Mich. ) The Flint Economic Recovery Task Force today presented a two-pronged approach for increasing residents’ access to full-service, inviting grocery stores in Flint neighborhoods. The plan calls for the development of two new grocery stores in areas that currently lack nearby access to healthy food options, and improving four existing full-service grocers in north Flint.

“Now more than ever, Flint residents need access to fresh, healthy food, given reports that nutrition can help lessen the effects of Flint’s lead-contaminated water supply,” said Lawrence Moon, owner of Lawrence E. Moon Funeral Homes and chairperson of the Flint Economic Recovery Task Force Grocery Stores Initiative. “The approach that we’re taking provides greater access and more.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver created the Flint Economic Recovery Task Force in response to the water crisis over concerns about a lack of healthy food options in parts of the city.

The Grocery Stores Initiative focuses on improving and expanding healthy food options in north Flint, an area hit hard by the recent Flint water crisis. A lack of grocery stores and healthy food access in the area creates challenges for residents in need of nutrition that helps mitigate the effects of lead exposure. In addition, many of the area’s neighborhoods were already struggling with high unemployment rates, crime, low student performance and blight.

The original idea was to attract a single, large national chain store. However, after working on a market analysis with Streetsense, a market research and design firm in Bethesda, Md., it became clear that a mixed approach offered the best solution for Flint.

According to the study’s findings, the current market conditions would not support a single, large national store without producing unintended consequences, such as driving out some smaller neighborhood grocers. It would also leave some neighborhoods without a grocer nearby.

However, market conditions could support two additional smaller grocery stores, each about 22,000 square feet in size, according to the analysis by Streetsense. Each store would generate estimated sales of up to $4 million annually.

Meanwhile, the development costs would range between $3 million and $8 million per store for new construction. For comparison purposes, a typical-size national chain store starts at 50,000 square feet with $19 million in sales. It would be between $11.6 million and $14.1 million to build such a facility.

The Flint Economic Recovery Task Force is working with two local community development organizations – the North Flint Reinvestment Corp. and Fresh Start – on the new stores. In addition, state and local funding partners have committed to significant financial resources to help achieve the project goals.

“We now have a clearer picture of the current market conditions, including where the gaps are, and a framework for how to help existing neighborhood grocers improve operations for the benefit of their businesses and Flint residents,” said Tim Herman, CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.

The plan includes working with four neighborhood grocers in the north end: Mr. B’s Foodland, 4311 DuPont St.; Hutchinson Food & Drug, 6509 N. Saginaw St.; Landmark Food Center, 206 W. Pierson Rd.; and The Local Grocer, 601 Martin Luther King Ave.

Mayor Weaver praised the task force’s work.

“I want to thank all of the people and organizations that worked together to make this project a reality,” said Weaver. “A primary goal of this initiative is to improve the access Flint residents have to healthy and nutritious foods, especially those high in iron, calcium and vitamin C, which have been shown to mitigate the effects of lead exposure. We appreciate the stores that have stayed in our community and I know residents are excited to now have even more options available."

The Flint grocery store plan was developed with Flint residents and their needs top of mind, said Herman. He added that it’s also a significant community development project for the city.

“In addition to providing access to fresh, healthy food, grocery stores are community anchors that help provide job opportunities for residents, including our young people,” Herman said. “We encourage residents to think locally first, and shop for groceries from the new and improved neighborhood stores.”