Woman with white hair looks at fresh tomatoes in a grocery store.

Striving to Meet Food Needs: Food Access Survey of Oscoda County, MI


June 14, 2019 - Kathryn Colasanti, Devin Spivey, Holly A. Campbell, Courtney A. Parks

What are the barriers to food access in Oscoda County, Michigan? This survey, conducted in early 2018, seeks to understand food access data to inform sustainable improvements, bring awareness to residents, and build strategic alliances for addressing the short- and long-term impacts of food access issues.

This survey was conducted as part of the Michigan Good Food Charter Shared Measurement project, which aims to catalyze the development of common measures of food system change, foster collaboration in data collection, and build collective capacity for collecting, using, and sharing data.

Download the file to read the complete survey findings!


This report presents the results of a survey of Oscoda County residents conducted between February and August of 2018. With support from the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, District Health Department No. 2 collaborated with the Oscoda County CHOICES (Creating Healthy Outcomes by Improving, Connecting, and Empowering for Success) group to conduct surveys with Oscoda County residents at public events and community facilities. The goals of this project are to:

  • Provide data that will empower community stakeholders to make sustainable improvements in food access related outcomes in Oscoda County.
  • Gather community input to develop a customized action plan for addressing food access in Oscoda County.
  • Bring awareness to Oscoda County residents and stakeholders about the short-term and long-term impacts surrounding food access issues.
  • Motivate and engage Oscoda County residents to build strategic alliances for future reports to address food access.

Topline Findings

  • Price was by far the most important factor in deciding where to shop.
  • Large numbers of people reported not having easy access to grocery stores that meet their needs (about a third of people) and having difficulty finding high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables in the community (about half of people).


CHOICES has found this project insightful and will use the results as a starting point to address the many different factors affecting food security in Oscoda County. Addressing these barriers will require convening community partners to be a part of the solution to the question, “How can we create a more aligned, coordinated, and coherent approach to improving access to healthy food in Oscoda County?”

The findings presented here point to at least four recommendations of strategies to increase access to healthy food and better understand current limiting factors.

1. Compare prices on the healthy market basket items at major grocery stores in Oscoda County and the nearest supercenters outside the county.
Respondents in this survey indicated that prices are higher at grocery stores in Oscoda County. Price comparisons could identify the extent of price differences on different types of food items.

2. Assess the quality of produce at grocery stores in Oscoda County.
Explore opportunities to connect food retailers with farmers or distributors in the area. Many survey respondents indicated dissatisfaction with the quality of fruits and vegetables in their community. Direct assessments of produce quality at the major food stores in Oscoda County could provide supporting evidence for residents’ concerns and open up opportunities for conversations with store owners about ways to improve quality, including by connecting with farmers in the area.

3. Educate low-income consumers about utilizing the farmers markets in budget friendly ways in order to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.
In this survey, few people (13%) reported regularly shopping at farmers markets. In contrast, 26% of survey respondents in a Battle Creek neighborhood and 27% of respondents in Ypsilanti reported regularly shopping at farmers markets. While this likely reflects the greater availability of farmers markets in those communities, the findings in this survey also point to an opportunity to encourage shopping at the farmers market in Mio as a source of high-quality produce.

4. Encourage enrollment in SNAP to help families stretch their food dollar.
While about half of respondents in this survey indicated living below the household poverty line and nearly three fourths indicated living below 150% of the poverty line, only 41% reported participating in the SNAP. This indicates an opportunity to encourage enrollment in SNAP to help alleviate the food insecurity and trade-offs between food and other expenses that many families face.

Download the report to learn more about the survey and its findings.


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