North Flint Cooperative Food Market

By: Robert Brown, Associate Director, Center for Community and Economic Development – Flint

Flint is a food desert. Research by Rick Sadler, an assistant professor in the MSU College of Human Medicine’s Division of Public Health, mapped the prevalence of food deserts in the community. Lack of access to healthy foods is compounded by Flint’s lead poisoning crisis, where fresh foods high in vitamin C, calcium, and iron are needed to mitigate the effects of lead poisoning. The major grocery chains have pulled out of Flint and there are no signs that they are looking to reinvest in the city.

CCED – Flint is partnering with the North Flint Reinvestment Corporation to overcome these issues with the creation of the North Flint Food Market, a resident owned cooperative. Vieta and Lionais, in a 2015 editorial for the special issue of the Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity,1 state:

Cooperatives benefit communities in distress via what has been termed the “cooperative advantage” (Spear, 2000). Spear outlines the cooperative advantage as rooted in co-ops’ particular ability to: (i) respond to state and market failures, (ii) engender trust, (iii) build a spirit of self-help, (iv) strengthen civil society, (v) promote key stakeholder participation by building on cooperative values, and (vi) create greater social efficiency and efficacy via positive social and economic externalities. Spear argues that cooperative values, in particular, lead to resilient and flexible organizations that can stabilize a community economy since members usually have deeper stakes in the community compared to dispersed shareholders.

This is our exact intention. The effort is based on Kwanzaa’s fourth Nguzo Saba principle, Ujamaa, which means cooperative economics. Ujamaa calls on Flint residents to unite to achieve the common goal of eradicating food deserts in largely populated low-income, African American neighborhoods and promote cooperation in doing together what we cannot do alone.

As principal of the project, the “North Flint Reinvestment Corporation, Inc. is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), community and economic development corporation dedicated to the vision of eradicating the root causes of generational poverty among the residents of North Flint through a holistic approach to community revitalization. The corporation is composed of a grass-roots network of public and private sector partners committed to rebuilding and revitalizing economically distressed neighborhoods in North Flint” (

Urban Symphony
by Robert Brown

Silent trees, no wind
Quiet but not
A siren moans
Unseen traffic hums
Shouts of children in the street
The urban symphony plays on

As a key partner, CCED-Flint is driven by our CCED principles, which state:

We value innovation and entrepreneurship in seeking new ways to respond to the challenges of distressed communities. We are dedicated to a set of principles that:

  • Promote active and representative citizen participation so that community members can meaningfully influence decisions that affect their situation.
  • Engage community members in problem diagnosis so that those affected may adequately understand the causes of their situation.
  • Help community members understand the economic, social, political, environmental, and psychological impact associated with alternative solutions to the problem.
  • Assist community members in designing and implementing a plan to solve agreed upon problems by emphasizing shared leadership and active citizen participation.
  • Seek alternatives to any effort that is likely to adversely affect the disadvantaged segments of a community.
  • Actively work to increase leadership capacity, skills, confidence, and aspirations in the community development process.


  1. The Cooperative Advantage for Community Development (editorial for the special issue of the Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity). Available from: [accessed Mar 28 2018].

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