JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — For many families, getting groceries on the south side of Jackson is a struggle.

The area hasn’t had its own grocery store in nearly three decades.

Dena Morgan is hoping that changes.

She’s a fourth-generation leader of the Dungytreei Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit helping reduce the impact of hunger and poverty in Jackson.

“This is my passion. This is my purpose. I’ve been doing it for all my life,” Morgan said.

Years of seeing the struggles of people trying to get food in south Jackson have left an impact on her and others who work beside her. They say many people in the area rely on public transportation, making grocery shopping difficult.

“We have a very serious problem with a food desert here. For those of us who have cars, we have a hard time understanding what that really means,” said Loree Grinnell, president of the Dungytreei Heritage Foundation. “Imagine if all the groceries you have you had to carry, and they had to be in walking distance of your home. So, where are you going to shop?”

That’s why Morgan is starting a campaign to bring a co-op grocery store to south Jackson.

Unlike corporate chains, food co-ops are independently owned by the community members who shop there.

“I think it would be a great opportunity for us to come together and work in unity, heal and build together,” said Morgan.

The City of Jackson says it has heard from its residents. They recently bought a 1.3-acre lot on the city’s south side. The MLK Improvement Authority is tasked with decided what to do with the space. 

“The goal is to use this property to supply food for the community whatever that looks like,” said Aaron Dimick, Public Information Officer for the City of Jackson. “We hear a lot of times from residents that they really desire a grocery store, and we know as city leaders that people need those amenities to feel valued as a resident, but also to feel like Jackson is a place that they want to be.”

Morgan says using the space as a co-op grocery store would be worth it.

“A co-op would help our strengthen our local economy and our community”

The group is planning to hold a discussion to help advocate for a store on Aug. 27 at the Jackson South Side Summerfest.