Saginaw City Council Hears Results of Food Desert Feasibility Study and ARPA Update

Results of a feasibility study meant to guide the spending of $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding in Saginaw has concluded.

The study looked for ways to best address the city’s food desert problem. Anna Colby with Public Policy Associates addressed the Saginaw City Council during the May 22nd meeting. She reported that the study found supporting a non-profit grocery more feasible for the city when compared to a member-owned food coop or a privately owned for-profit store.

“In this report we’re focusing on a member-based, but not member owned, so different than the co-op, charitable grocery store model. So specifically the food club model that has some momentum here in Saginaw,” said Colby. “…Families with low income pay a monthly fee and receive points with which to purchase food.”

Colby says they spoke with community stakeholders and experts in grocery retail, and found that there is already a local organization interested in starting a food club as well as partners willing to support it. She says while a food club would be the most feasible to start in Saginaw, the long-term feasibility of that kind of establishment is still unknown.

Also at the meeting, Guidehouse consultant David Sernick gave an update on projects within the city being funded through ARPA.

“These are organizations we’re still working on finishing this agreement [with]: MAC, Hoyt Park, Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Sernick. “We have agreements signed with the Neighb, First Ward, Women of Colors, public libraries, and we’ve actually got projects basically up and running with YEARN, CAC, and Houghton Jones.”

Addressing concerns about possible federal claw backs on unallocated ARPA funds as part of ongoing national debt ceiling negotiations, Sernick said there is no room in the current agreement between Saginaw and the federal government for claw backs. However, Sernick said Guidehouse is still working to interpret the language of current proposals and negotiations that may affect that agreement.