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    Detroit Launches Initiative to Fill 'Food Gaps'

    A study concluded the city could support as much as a million more square feet of grocery space

    Fueled by a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. will begin efforts to help develop supermarkets in underserved neighborhoods of Detroit.

    The launching point for the effort -- the Detroit Fresh Food Access Initiative -- is a study that found that of the billion dollars a year that Detroiters spend on groceries, over $200 million of which is spent outside the city.

    The study projects that Detroit could support between 600,000 and one million additional square feet of retail grocery store space -- the equivalent of more than a dozen supermarkets at the national average size of 47,500 square feet.

    The area most underserved area in terms of grocery offerings turns out to be Northwest Detroit, something that the Initiative's co-chair and vice president of DEGC, Olga Savic Stella, called "ironic." She said: "It's one of the most stable, middle class parts of Detroit." As for existing stores, she said that the goal is to "lift up" those that are already offering quality product and to assist those that are not in elevating their goods and service.

    The initiative report recommends that a specific grocery store business attraction and retention program be created; workforce training for grocery store employees and store owners be established; community outreach and marketing programs be created; and legislative changes in regulation at the state level be encouraged. The Kresge grant will be used to launch the first of these recommendations.

    The initiative's president is Dan Carmody of the Eastern Market Corp., while board members include the owners of Gigante Prince Valley Super Mercado, Indian Village Market, Metro Foodland and Save-A-Lot.

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