DETROIT — Twenty corner stores here — mostly liquor or convenience stores — are selling fresh produce through Detroit Fresh: The Healthy Corner Store Project.
The project is the brainchild of Dr. Kami Pothukuchi, associate professor of Urban Planning at Wayne State University here, who launched it in 2008. Pothukuchi is the founder of Seed Wayne, a grant-supported effort to bring sustainable food to Wayne State and other Detroit neighborhoods. Seed Wayne is leading the Detroit Fresh project in collaboration with Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Earth Works Urban Farm and Eastern Market Corp.
“Our objective is to connect smaller stores with wholesale produce distributors so they can buy fresh produce at wholesale prices,” she said.
Detroit Fresh also works with store owners to familiarize them with selling produce, providing tips on stocking, merchandising, as well as offering baskets, scales, in-store marketing materials, posters and brochures. There is also community outreach to make residents aware that the stores are now carrying fresh fruits and vegetables.
The program, funded by the Erb Family Foundation, is cost-free (outside of the cost of the produce) for retailers who agree to participate and who are located in neighborhoods that lack a supermarket within one-quarter of a mile.
Pothukuchi acknowledged that these stores, which sell primarily liquor, tobacco, snacks and lottery tickets, do not view produce as part of their business model and don’t expect to make money from it, especially in the small quantities that they can carry.
“If they break even that’s good news,” she said. But the stores stand to gain a great deal of good will in the community by selling produce as well as attract customers who otherwise would not come to their stores. “Some community residents look [the store owners] in the face and thank them for carrying produce,” she said.
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