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Natural Awakenings Healthy Living Magazine

Healthy Food For and By the People

The People’s Food Co-op (PFC) is the only full-service downtown grocery store in Ann Arbor. In 1971, a group of health-centered activists organized around a desire for fresh and natural foods originally purchased at the Eastern Market, in Detroit. Allied with the development of the Michigan Federation of Food Coops, a storefront and food warehouse were formed to serve a growing interest in the community, which paved the way for numerous food buying clubs and eventually, several storefront food co-ops opening across the state.

            Marketing/Outreach Coordinator Troy Clarke says, “We serve the community by offering a full-range of groceries, produce and environmentally conscious cleaning products with an emphasis on local, sustainable, organic and fair-trade products. We also have a prepared foods department that offers a grab-n-go cooler filled with pre-made meals.” The co-op is owned by the community, so every dollar spent helps to sustain the organization. Everyone is welcome to shop at the co-op; it is not necessary to be a member-owner.

            Clarke explains, “We care about the environment, access to healthy food and the sustainability of our community. Sustainability is integral to everything we do at People’s Food Co-op. From the products we source to the organizations we support to our recycling program, concern for our environment and our community is always prioritized. To minimize food waste, not only do we work with local food rescues, but we also partner with MYGreenMi to compost all food items that cannot be eaten. In 2021 we diverted about 60,000 pounds of food scraps and compostable material from landfills.”

            Conscious of the environmental impact, PFC has not provided single-use plastic grocery bags since September 2019. They also divert approximately 500,000 pounds of cardboard, glass, metal and plastic from landfills each year. In 2021, they donated approximately 12,339 pounds of food and our Change for our Community program donated more than $15,000 to local nonprofit organizations.

            As stated in the Ends Policies (values that guide the business), People’s Food Cooperative exists to provide service to their members and the community by achieving these goals:

            Through our products and services, we promote local economy, environmental sustainability, health and economic justice.

            We enhance and encourage cooperative community.

            We foster participatory ownership through volunteer opportunities, educational experiences and cooperative governance.

            In our business and community, we work towards the elimination of institutional and structural racism and oppression.

            We develop collective community wisdom around health and nutrition, principles and practices of sustainability, cooperative values and principles, and our own cooperative history.

            We are a model employer, demonstrating a culture of professionalism, mutual support and open communication based on the balance of personal and organizational needs.

            Remembering and building on People's Food Co-op’s history, we will thrive into the future.

            The People’s Food Co-op connects the community to delicious, fair food produced with ethics, sustainability and accessibility in mind. Experienced staff works with local, regional and international growers and vendors to provide an array of healthy options that meet the needs of our diverse community. They prioritize products that are locally grown or produced; Certified Organic or following organic practices; clean: GMO-free, free from artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, fragrances, antibiotics, growth hormones, herbicides or pesticides; socially responsible—produced or distributed cooperatively; fair trade; and small scale.

            Clarke advises, “While the corporate grocers have embraced natural and organic foods, we believe that we still have an important role in our community. The continued commitment to our core values, our democratic leadership model and community ownership through the years is what differentiates us from our competitors. Our future is secured by our members, our community and new friends that we meet in the future.”

The People’s Food Co-op is located at 216 N. Fourth Ave., in Ann Arbor. For more information, call 734-994-9174 or visit