Detroit's Food Economy

Patrolling Grandparents Promote Healthy Eating

by: Rob St. Mary

February 12, 2013

Donald and Robin Hudson of Detroit's Osborn neighborhood, plan their shopping trip. Photo Credit: Rob St. Mary, WDET

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“It’s almost like safety and healthy... it’s like those two join together.” - Robin Hudson

In some Detroit neighborhoods,the corner store doesn’t have fresh fruits or vegetables or milk at affordable prices. As part of our ongoing series on Detroit’s food economy, WDET’s Rob St. Mary introduces us to a family that has made bulk buying and bargain shopping a staple of good nutrition.

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.

The phrase "food desert" has been used so often to describe a lack of quality food in Detroit neighborhoods that it's become cliche. But, Robin Hudson says she doesn't see a lack of healthy food options in her neighborhood near 8 Mile and Gratiot.

“I do a lot of shopping in the Osborn community. I shop at Pick N Save, Seven Mile Foods that’s like in the Van Dyke/Seven Mile area because they have really good deals.”

It’s more than just a matter of saving money for Hudson. She says it’s about stretching dollars to feed an extended family. The mother of five and grandmother of 15 says most of her adult children don’t live at home. But her grandchildren are a fixture in her house. On any given day she has about ten hungry grandkids ages 16 to three months on her hands. So Hudson says it’s her goal is to teach them not to waste food and to eat healthy. And for some it’s a challenge.

“Like Xavian, he really hate vegetables. And I tell him “you have to eat your vegetable, don’t you want to grow up and be strong and healthy?” You know, because, he likes to play baseball. So, I’m like “You know, you want to play baseball you have to be strong and healthy.”

Hudson says nutritional knowledge is not just something her kids and grandkids need. She says her Osborn neighbors need it, too.

“You know we have a lot of young parents… so, if you are a young parent and then you have a child and she becomes a young parent and you wasn’t taught how to budget or what foods to shop for and your child sees you or me sitting up there eating a bag of hot chips and drinking a brisk then they going to think it’s okay that that’s a day-to-day thing that they do.”

Hudson says a simple way to educate the community might be to put a nutritional guide in the weekly grocery store sales papers. A guide that could highlight a meat, a fruit or a vegetable explaining the good things about it and also what can happen if you overindulge.

(car sounds)

Robin Hudson and her husband, Donald, put their belief in sales flyers into practice each time they shop. Armed with a fistful of sales papers they jump into their neighborhood watch patrol van and head to Farmer John’s a grocery store on Gratiot at Harper a few miles from their home.

(arrival sounds)

The Hudsons have a goal today to pick up a sale priced 40-pound box of chicken quarters and some hamburger meat. Robin says buying in bulk and storing food in her basement freezer helps stretch the family’s budget.

As they walk the aisles the Hudsons compare the sales prices.

“See, I wouldn’t get my wheat bread here… it’s a $1.99… I’d to Aldi’s and get it for 99 cents.”

“This is $2.49 a pound. That’s $9.98. That’s not really going to feed a family. So, I’m going to go and get a case of chicken.”

Donald Hudson rings the butcher to get the chicken.

“Here comes the chicken now. And to add something, this store, the meat is good here. I’ve been to stores where the meat is always fresh isn’t good but this store’s meat is always fresh and I’ve never had to bring something back. So, I like shopping here.”

But at the core of all this collecting the sales papers looking for the best deals and teaching the gospel of good nutrition are Robin and Donald’s desire to look after their family and community.

“We’re the extra set of eyes if we see anything going on we’ll stop or we’ll dispatch it to our dispatcher. But since we have been out here patrolling when I joined two years ago, since I’ve been out here, the crime rate has gone tremendously down. It was sky high before I came out here but it’s gone down a whole lot.”

“It’s almost like safety and healthy it’s like those two join together.”

And as bargain hunting blends with nutritional knowledge and good cooking the Hudsons see a bright new career opportunity just around the bend. An opportunity they say was highlighted by someone with the gift of prophecy catering.

“I cater a lot for DCI where Bishop work at. So, I’m getting a healthy lunch menu out so they don’t have to go across the street to Burger King or McDonald’s they can order salads or stuff like that. So, you know. God is good. Things are looking up.”

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET NEWS