Flint, MI — The vacant building at the corner of West Pierson and Clio Road moved one step closer to becoming North Flint Food Market. 

“It just began as a direct response to the water crisis and the closure of two grocery stores in that Pierson Road corridor,” said Dr. Reginald Flynn of North Flint Reinvestment Corporation, a nonprofit organization and the developer for North Flint Food Market. “With the closure of those stores, we just mobilized people and brainstormed what potential solutions were.”

That mobilization started over five years ago and led Flynn to believe that building a food co-op, a model in which members are also owners of the grocery store, would be the answer to the area’s growing food desert.

“The reason why we decided not to pursue the recruitment of a regional grocery store chain is because we wanted to have decision-making authority. We wanted to be able to have a voice in how the store operates,” Flynn said. “With a food co-op, the people invest their money, and in investing their money, they have a voice, and that’s where the democratic process comes in.” 

Flynn has been reaching out to an array of potential investors from the community, from local and state government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations, ever since the Kroger and Meijer, which once served the area, shuttered. That’s why the $1.25 million grant, approved on July 27 by Michigan Strategic Fund, was especially moving.

“It’s been a long journey,” Flynn said through tears. The investment means NFRC can break ground soon. 

“We anticipate (beginning construction) in the next couple of weeks or so,” said Flynn, who added that they anticipate opening the store in the first quarter of 2022. 

According to the Governor’s office, which announced the $1.25 million MSF grant in conjunction with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the North Flint Food Market has also received financial support from local organizations, including the Ruth Mott Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, C.S. Mott Foundation, and Healthy Food Financing Initiative.

“This is a turning point for the north side of Flint,” said Arlene Wilburn, the food co-op’s general manager.  “In my opinion, we are doing something that has never been done before, and we’re doing it together.” 

North Flint Food Market currently has 888 member-owners according to Wilborn and Flynn. That’s 52 more than announced in the governor’s office press release. “But,” Wilborn was quick to add, “we’re never going to stop growing membership.”

Both Wilborn and Flynn said that the market’s next milestone is to get to 1,000 members before opening in 2022. 

“I just want to see all of the city of Flint become part of something that has never been done before,” said Wilborn. “And then we can take this model, and we can show it to other urban communities that need a community grocery store.”

If you would like to become a member of North Flint Food Market, you can sign up on the market’s website, call them at 810-620-1974, or email Arlene Wilborn at wilborna@aol.com. You do not need to be a member to shop at the market.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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