Detroit's Food Economy

Making Difficult Food Choices When Living Below The Poverty Line

February 14, 2013


Produce and meat at a local Detroit grocery. Photo Credit: Matt Elliott, WDET

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“I have to stretch certain things that I normally wouldn’t make…I have to make, like pork and beans and hot dogs would have to be accommodated even though I wouldn’t like it…it’s something that I know my daughter has to eat and I have to eat.” - Tiffany Evans


Getting to a well-stocked supermarket in some Detroit neighborhoods can be a challenge. Detroit is one of the most expensive cities in the nation to own a car. About 1 in 5 of city residents don’t own a vehicle and bus transit is unreliable. Now imagine being a single mother, without a car. You’re on federal food assistance and faced with the challenge of serving three healthy meals a day to your child.

WDET’s Martina Guzman introduces us to a single mother in Detroit’s Southwest Neighborhood and the challenges she faces when it comes to feeding her family.



This series is made possible by the generous support of our Sustaining Members. Because of you, WDET can bring this critical story to everyone in our region.

Transcript
There are only few dozen full service grocery stores in the city. Southwest Detroit in unique in that it has five major grocery stores and smaller markets scattered throughout. La Azteca Supermercado is one of the area’s latest additions.

“This is the only grocery store in the neighborhood that has good prices and good groceries. I would have to go far out like Southgate or Taylor…to go to a Wal-Mart I would have to go far out.”

That’s shopper Tiffany Evans. She says she likes La Azteca because it’s well stocked and has an abundance of everything. She pushed her cart past the display of Juice, bread, and makes her way to the butcher section. She’s looking for a sale on meat. Evans picks up a pack of sirloin then puts it back down. She knows she can’t afford it.

“A pack of meat, something simple is five dollars …it’s out of control.”

Food prices are higher. According to the U-S Bureau of Labor Statistics the price of groceries rose six percent in 2011 and continues to increase. Evans sighs and says she feels constantly challenged to make nutritious meals.

"I try to give her Breakfast, Lunch and dinner and I try to give a snack in between."

Evans says she often making unwanted choices like buying cheap starchy foods and processed meats.

“I have to make things stretch…like…I only get a certain amount to last me until the next month so it’s like I have to stretch certain things that I normally wouldn’t make…I have to make, like pork and beans and hot dogs would have to be accommodated even though I wouldn’t like it…it’s something that I know my daughter has to eat and I have to eat.”

According to Data Driven Detroit 41% of Detroiters were on food assistance in 2011. Low income families often have to make tough choices about how to nutritiously feed their children. Evans is a single mother with a two year old daughter. She’s been on food assistance for three years and says she struggles to make it to the end of the month.

“Almost every month I have to ask someone in my family to help…like my father or my grandmother with buying food…to help me and my daughter accommodate to the next month.”

And she says she struggles with the stereotype of being on food assistance.

“I’m doing the best that I can to provide for me and a two year old and the food stamps that I’m getting is limited and it still doesn’t last me from one month to the next month so I’m doing the best that I can with what I have. People out there look down on certain people having food stamps or getting assistance. They look at us like we are less than they are.”

While some Detroit neighborhoods are experiencing revitalization Others wonder what is being done to address the needs of the majority of Detroit’s families. Unreliable mass transit and a per capita income of around 15 thousand dollars a year continue to challenge a large percentage of families looking for nutritious food for their children.

I’m Martina Guzman WDET News