Map: Detroit’s Black-owned Food System


The repeated and compound impact of structural racism on Detroit’s food system couldn’t be more obvious than the need for a Black Farmer Land Fund, a Black Restaurant Week, and crowd-funding efforts for Black-owned grocery stores in the Blackest city in the US. These are just a few recent concerted efforts to change the status quo, but its important to note that this is NOT everything that is Black-owned in Detroit’s food system. The additional gray dots are food businesses catalogued by The Black Bottom Archives (add any missing businesses to their directory).

The Black Farmer Land Fund launched to address the racial disparity of land access in urban agriculture in Detroit. The cumbersome process of working with the Land Bank was limiting the number of Black participants that could access land for agricultural uses. D-Town Farm run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and Oakland Avenue…

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Map: Great Grocer Project launch with top 25 Detroit grocery stores


Early this month, the Detroit Food Policy Council and partners on their Detroit Grocery Coalition launched the Great Grocer Project to highlight and support improvements in Detroit’s local grocery landscape. The effort was awarded a 3-year USDA grant through partners at Wayne State University and is a culmination of nearly a decade of grocery work by the Detroit Food Map Initiative.

This map is for the top 25 independent grocery stores (excluding Meijer, Whole Foods, Save-a-Lot, and Aldi), but all 68 stores in Detroit were scored. Harper Food Center was one of the top 25 stores before it burned down in late February.

Learn more about the scoring and future efforts HERE!

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Detroit: Who Plans and Maps Your Neighborhood?


Planning a city is a big job, but is it too much to ask for a coordinated effort?

The number of disparate boundaries in Detroit is both fascinating and befuddling: police scout car areas, curbside trash pickup zones, fire hydrant company areas, and on and on.

This post will focus on the various planning boundaries and what they mean for you. The boundaries will be discussed in chronological order, but all of these boundaries are actively used to plan the city’s future.

Master Plan Neighborhoods, 2004: These boundaries are the legacy of the United Community Services/United Way Community Services “subcommunities” first developed in 1951 and drawn along Census Tract boundaries so that Census data could be used to compare areas. These 54 areas have been the official “neighborhoods” since that time and remain so since the City’s Master Plan has not been updated since 2004.

Planning Clusters, 2007:…

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Map: Detroit Protests 2020



Over the last 14 days, protestors in Detroit have marched a collective 74 miles through Corktown, Southwest, Downtown, Midtown, Virginia Park, New Center, Islandview, and deep into the Eastside.

Protestors are demanding justice for George Floyd and the numerous other Black Americans who have died or faced brutality at the hands of police. The structural violence of expanded video surveillance, rampant foreclosures, unfettered evictions, and broad disinvestment in Black neighborhoods has also been a focal point of protestors demands delivered to the Mayor.

In the early days, marches were met with an intense and often brutal police response with full riot gear and tear gas. Clashes have been driven by police responding to the defined curfew which led to mass arrests until the Police Chief declared he would no longer enforce the curfew. Marches following this declaration saw no clashes and always ended peacefully. Marches have pulled…

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Map: Chain Supermarkets in Metro Detroit 2020


I’ve mapped the empty business rings of Detroit before, but my personal interest and research is in food access. While chain supermarkets are not the shining beacon of hope, they are the preferred food shopping location for the majority of Detroit residents even with almost 70 independent local grocers.

Kroger and Walmart are the leading locations to buy groceries by Detroiters, but none are located within the city limits. The Walmart bus shuttles seniors from every corner of the city on a weekly basis.

I was interviewed for this CNN piece on the topic. Read more: How the rise of supermarkets left out black America

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Map: Detroit’s Pizza Place Geography



This map idea has been sitting in the back of my head ever since Nathan Yau of FlowingData analyzed the pizza place geography of the United States. The map is based on which pizza place is nearest to particular areas of the city broken down into a grid (microhoods actually – shout out to Motor City Mapping project).

Numerous recent news reports highlight the hoarding of frozen pizza, the rallying of pizza chain stock prices, and the overall growth of pizza chains during the coronavirus pandemic. Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s all reported plans to hire more workers to meet the demand. Where might those people be in Detroit?


Detroit is home to the headquarters or birthplace of multiple pizza chains including: Little Caesar’s (HQ, founded in Garden City), Buddy’s (claim to the “Detroit-style”), Happy’s (founded 1994), and the specialty pizza spots only found in Detroit including…

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Map: Detroit’s Altered Grocery Landscape 2020


DFM-covid-grocery-050820Food isn’t the same in Detroit anymore. All independent grocers have reduced their operating hours – many have reduced staff as workers stopped showing up for fear of exposure. Restaurants are becoming small grocers, “groceries” are distributed in drive-thru lines, and emergency food providers have become a lifeline as unemployment has skyrocketed.

Retailers are now mandated to limit the number of people inside their stores, require all employees (and customers) wear masks, and offer special hours to vulnerable populations.

As part of the Detroit Grocery Coalition, convened by the Detroit Food Policy Council, I’ve been tracking changes along with colleagues at the City of Detroit. Independent grocers are holding steady in the neighborhoods although at reduced staffING, hours, and sometimes supply chain – but the landscape of support during COVID-19 shows specific food access opportunity patterns across Detroit.

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Map: Arsenal of Health in Detroit 2020



During both World War efforts, Detroit’s factories and their manufacturing might was flipped from automobile production to support for the war effort. During World War II, at least 110 factories in Detroit retooled to produce parts for aircraft, tanks, and weapons.


Recently, the news media (Crains, Free Press, Detroit News) have reached back into history in an attempt to compare the Coronavirus global pandemic to a war effort. There are serious issues with comparing a public health response to a war, but today is all about the geography.

Detroit no longer has an arsenal from which to pull. There are no longer over 100 factories within the city limits. The auto industry’s operations are no longer are located in Detroit. The reverse prohibition trend in Detroit has led to the city’s strongest response as Detroit-based breweries and distilleries have started mass producing hand sanitizer rather than beer or spirits. Detroit’s…

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Map: Coffee Shop Shifts in Detroit 2017 – 2019



In 2015 I wanted to see how coffee shops in Detroit might relate to research on Starbucks and gentrification. I tracked on-going changes in the coffee landscape in 2017. Now there are more changes in coffee, but it’s more a consolidation than citywide growth. There are a few upcoming neighborhood coffee venues planned, such as Morningside Cafe.

Neighborhoods adjacent to the 7.2 square mile Downtown-Midtown investment zone are seeing expansion and new coffee shops opening up adding to existing density of coffee options. However, neighborhoods a bit further out are starting to lose their coffee shops where there was no change between 2015 to 2017. Most notably Ashe Coffee’s attempt in Rivertown was a flop and the rarely open Coffee and (_____) closed its doors in Jefferson Chalmers. Will Leather Goods (former Tomboy Market) hosted a coffee bar, but everything is closing down to make way for another pizza…

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