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A collaborative partnership launched the Great Grocer Project (GGP) in March 2021 in Detroit, Michigan where health inequities, including deaths due to COVID-19, have historically been politically determined and informed by socially entrenched norms. Institutional and structural racism has contributed to a lack of diversity in store ownership among Detroit grocers and limited access to high-quality, affordable healthy foods as well as disparate food insecurity among Detroit residents. The GGP seeks to promote Detroit’s healthy grocers to improve community health and economic vitality through research, programs, and policies that have the potential to advance health equity. A cross-sectional design was used to explore relationships between scores from the Nutrition Environment Measures Surveys-Stores (NEMS-S) in 62 stores and city-level data of COVID-19 cases and deaths as well as calls to 211 for food assistance. Regression and predictive analyses were conducted at the ZIP code level throughout the city to determine a relationship between the community food environment and food insecurity on COVID-19 cases and deaths. COVID-19 cases and deaths contributed to greater food insecurity. The use of ZIP code data and the small sample size were limitations within this study. Causation could not be determined in this study; therefore, further analyses should explore the potential effects of individual grocery stores on COVID-related outcomes since a cluster of high-scoring NEMS-S stores and calls to 211 for food security resources inferred a potential protective factor. Poor nutrition has been shown to be associated with increased hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19. It is important to understand if a limited food environment can also have a negative effect on COVID-19 rates and deaths. Lessons learned from Detroit could have implications for other communities in using food environment improvements to prevent an uptick in food insecurity and deaths due to COVID-19 and other coronaviruses.


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Food Security | Food Studies | Health Policy | Inequality and Stratification | Nutrition | Nutritional Epidemiology | Public Policy | Race and Ethnicity | Urban Studies | Urban Studies and Planning


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