Flint’s Local Grocer Offers More than Good Food
Franklin Pleasant and Erin Caudell have a lot on their plates—and it’s all to ensure that Flint residents have healthy food on theirs. The Flint Ingredient Company growers started The Local Grocer at the Flint Farmers’ Market three years ago to sell their vegetables and to increase access to healthy Michigan-grown and -made products. For daily availability, they opened a 7,500-square-foot storefront on Martin Luther King Avenue last year.
With food advocacy backgrounds, the Flint natives recognized the need to provide healthy foods that could also strengthen Flint’s economy by selling predominantly Michigan grocery items and by supporting budding farmers, Pleasant says. “It really is our mission to provide that opportunity to the people of Flint, so they don’t have to do all the thinking to support their local economy,” says Pleasant, who calls it an innovative retail platform—an open door and an open shelf—for local producers looking to get started or to expand.
“We saw the need to move things forward,” says Caudell, an MSU horticulture graduate. “I have a horticulture background, so it made sense.” Currently she is an outreach specialist for MSU’s Hoophouses for Health program.
The Local Grocer buys directly from eight small farms within a 100-mile radius and from predominantly small-scale food producers across the state. Although some items come from farther away, the goal is to sell as much local produce as possible and to support farmers who employ natural and organic growing practices. “We want farmers to feel they have a stable and consistent opportunity for sales. As farmers ourselves we understand that,” explains Caudell. “What’s nice is we don’t have to grow everything ourselves.”
The Local Grocer also works to be a community space, with regular events such as craft and game nights, and as a party venue, which The Local Grocer’s kitchen caters with head chef and kitchen manager Kristina Pruccoli at the helm. Pruccoli adds seasonal rotating specials and soups to the standard menu of deli-style sandwiches, smoothies and juices.
"Our kitchen is 85% locally produced,” says Pruccoli.
“You’re at the whim of nature. That’s also a way of educating the public to eat seasonally.” Pruccoli understands the challenges farmers face because she co-founded Elemental Foods, a Mount Morris farm that supplies the eggs she and her staff of five use to produce freshly baked breads, quiches and other favorites. They also make “grab and go” prepared items for the grocery’s refrigerated section. “This was grown six miles away. It was processed here. The amount of hands it touches, the footprint it makes, is so much smaller,” she says, comparing it to conventional groceries.
The Local Grocer’s newest venture is operating the Flint Fresh Mobile Market, a food truck that makes stops in Flint neighborhoods at after-school programs and senior living centers. The truck runs as a partnership with The Local Grocer, the YMCA of Greater Flint, Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the Neighborhood Engagement Hub and the Flint Farmers’ Market. “It’s been a tremendous success,” says Caudell, adding that the demand for resources is even greater than initially anticipated: “We’re working on that.”
Find out more at The Local Grocer