Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Andrea Sankar

Second Advisor

Andrew Newman


Detroit is assumed to be a “food desert” even with contradicting evidence. With fruits and vegetables available at each of Detroit’s 70+ independent grocery stores, there remains a lack of understanding in consumer preference and perception of nutritional access. It was reported in 2010 that upwards of $200 million in grocery spending leaves the City of Detroit. Throughout the months of July to September 2014, 73 Detroit residents participated in focus groups and group interviews to discuss food purchasing habits and perceptions of food access. Of the 73 participants, 51 completed a Food Purchasing and Eating Patterns (FPEP) survey which looked at preferred locations, food costs, and monthly income and spending. Participants identified a wide range of nutritional access points from home gardens and fishing to specialty meat markets and big box stores. However, 60% of residents reported that their main grocery store was a chain supermarket outside of the city limits. Residents reported purchasing from an average of 5 different food outlets in a month. Residents highlighted in-store treatment as a key factor for shopping outside the city with food prices identified as a close second. Detroit’s history of racial and ethnic divide permeates into the food system. The reports of bad service and disrespect cannot be used as generalizations, but concerns were found across the city. Food prices caused many residents’ monthly food purchasing to come from up to 19 stores. Addressing food access in Detroit requires a series of interpersonal and systemic changes.