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Healthy food remains scarce in Detroit despite the opening of two new grocery stores in as many years, according to a report released Thursday on food access in the state.

About 1.8 million Michiganians, including 300,000 children, live in areas with limited access to healthy food, according the Healthy Food Access Campaign Report, which found that many of Michigan’s rural and urban areas lack enough grocery stores, farmers markets and other fresh food sources.

The report released by The Food Trust, a national group based in Philadelphia that advocates for improved access to healthy food across the country, said residents of Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids often have to go long distances to find fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products.

“It’s wonderful news that new stores are opening in Detroit, and that trend needs to continue in order to better service the entire city,” said Deirdre Church, program manager for The National Campaign for Health Food Access.

“Even given these stores, there are still many areas of Detroit that have limited access to healthy food retail.”

Whole Foods opened its first store in Midtown in 2013. The venture has been so successful the upscale grocer would like to build a second Detroit store, co-CEO Walter Robb said last September.

Meijer Inc. opened its first Detroit store on Eight Mile in 2013. A second store is scheduled to open later this year at the former Redford High School site near McNichols and Grand River.

The report cited Tuscola, Sanilac, Coldwater, Allegan, Cadillac, Hancock and Houghton among rural Michigan communities with too few grocery stores.

Food scarcity is thought to contribute to the high obesity rate in Michigan, where 31.5 percent of residents are overweight. More than 32 percent of kids ages 10-17 are overweight or obese.

Obesity is linked to chronic health conditions. If it’s too difficult to get to a faraway grocery store, the report noted, families may turn to unhealthy, processed foods available at convenience stores.

Ted O’Dell, campaign manager for American Heart Association, which partnered with The Food Trust to release the report, said improving access to healthy food is critical for improving the health of Michigan residents.

“Michigan children are some of the heaviest in the Midwest, and we want to combat that,” O’Dell said Thursday. “If we can create opportunity of access in communities where there isn’t any, that’s a step in the right direction.”

kbouffard@detroitnews.com

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