At the Annual Meeting: Malik Yakini and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op

Starting a new food co-op takes a lot of planning, meetings, and membership investment to jointly establish a truly democratic member-owned grocery focused on supporting the physical as well as the economic health of its community.  Such an effort began in 2006 in Detroit as community activist and visionary, Malik Yakini, along with a few others, formed the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) to combat food insecurity in Detroit’s majority, underserved black community.  Their mission was set forth to build a food system grown organically from the Black community who it is designed to serve. 


The DBFSCN immediately established an urban farm, DTown Farm, which is now located within Detroit’s Rouge Park and has grown to seven acres.  The farm offers 30 different fruits and vegetables, contains three hoop houses, does large scale composting, has bee hives, captures rainwater in a retention pond and has a solar energy station.  Malik Yakini, executive director of DBCFSN, has had a vision of providing fresh, local produce and other healthy food to the wider community for many years.  The idea of the Detroit People’s Food Co-op has grown with the success of DTown Farm.  The DBCFSN began a membership drive to begin to build capital to establish a cooperative grocery store in the Black community.  


The cooperative model is important to Malik Yakini, as he explained to Laura Herberg of WDET “is a system used historically by the African American people to galvanize our collective economic power in the face of an economic system which is hellbent on keeping us out of the mainstream economy.” The DBCFSN website points out that Detroit is a majority African American community with no grocery stores owned by African Americans; instead, grocery stores are owned by others who don’t live in the community and are extracting wealth from the community.  Establishing a food co-op in the Black community with each of its owners living within it, with an equal investment, keeps profits and decisions circulating and building a vibrant community in its own image. Unlike many food co-ops which are located in college towns or in affluent communities, Detroit People’s Food Co-op will be unique in serving a low to moderate-income, largely African American community.


The formation of Detroit People’s Food Co-op has endured the economic collapse of 2008 which led to the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the so called “Grand Bargain.”  By contrast, over the last several years the food coop has become part of a much larger plan, the Detroit Food Commons, which will be a significant community development project located at the corner Euclid and Woodward Streets in Detroit’s historic north.  

The 34,000 square foot Detroit Food Commons will feature the food coop on the ground floor with café and community space.  The second floor will have four shared-use kitchens which will be available to food entrepreneurs to help them get their products out to markets without investing in expensive kitchen equipment.  The $15 million project is getting closer to reality as a purchase agreement was signed in April 2021 for a portion of the desired property.  The DBCFSN has a goal of 2000 members ($200 membership investment), and in the last year coop membership has surged to almost 1500. reported this October that the Detroit Food Commons has obtained the support of the Michigan Good Food Fund which is a partnership of the Capital Impact Partners, the Fair Food Network, Michigan State’s Center for Regional Foods and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.  This fund has invested over $12 million in food-based projects in the state, as well as providing technical assistance, and sees food co-ops as an especially effective way to build wealth in communities facing redlining and systematic disinvestment.  The project received a $1.5 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant. The Michigan Strategic Fund also approved $509,634 in state tax capture for the City of Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority for the project.


Your Ann Arbor People’s Food Co-op has featured the Detroit People’s Food Co-op as our recipient of our monthly Change for Community program with members donating over $1700 to the co-op formation.  Join our co-op’s annual meeting Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at 6:30 pm  via Zoom to hear more from Malik Yakini about his activism and his work with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network to bring the Detroit People’s Food Co-op to Detroit’s Black community.