The north side of Flint is largely a food desert, the result of a steady decline in jobs and economic security compounded by the city’s enduring water crisis. But Mark Baldwin wants to change that.
“Especially for young folks, there’s an amazing amount of opportunity in Flint,” he says on a crisp Thursday afternoon, gesturing around his greenhouse, which he hopes can be translated into a wider-scale effort to provide the neighborhood with healthy, cheap food.
Meandering past a tangle of bright-red tomatoes, Baldwin shows off his labor of love — a hoop house where he grows vegetables using almost exclusively rain water, allowing him to avoid the city’s much-mistrusted tap alternative.
As Flint’s economy has tumbled over the past 50 years, its grocery stores have slowly closed. Several more have shuttered since the water crisis began four years ago for unclear reasons, leaving residents with few affordable options. Of those still open, one grocery store was described by locals as “like a jail” due to its tight doors and limitations on carts, all meant to prevent theft. That approach has deterred residents, even as they face fewer and fewer nearby options.
Baldwin has big dreams to change that, but his efforts haven’t come easily.