Jacksonville leaders could have an answer for meals desert communities

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. With Southeastern Grocers to close 94 grocery stores, including four Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores in the Jacksonville area, there are concerns that the closure will make it difficult for people to find fresh groceries.

But during a town hall meeting Thursday night, Jacksonville councilor Katrina Brown and councilor Reggie Brown, no relationship, announced that they might have a solution.

Councilors said a local grocer could replace one of the closing stores, two of which include the Harveys on North Edgewood Avenue and the Harveys on Dunn Avenue.

Rob Rowe, who owns Rowe’s supermarkets across town, said he wanted to open a new grocery store in a soon-to-be-closed Harveys store on Dunn Avenue, but he needed the town’s help.

“I have an interest in opening the grocery store,” Rowe said during the Thursday evening meeting.

Rowe said Harveys’ current location on the north side has some challenges that will cost money. To help Rowe and encourage other grocery stores in the community, councilors wrote the 2018-195 House Bill, which would provide $ 3 million.

You also wrote House Bill 2018-74, which would make it harder for liquor stores to enter communities.

Food deserts are found all over Jacksonville, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Food deserts are areas where it is difficult for people to purchase affordable, fresh and healthy food.

INTERACTIVE MAP: The USDA map shows every part of Jacksonville that is considered a food desert

“The proposal was great. It’s something that is badly needed, especially when you use the words ‘food deserts’ – something they don’t really talk about,” said Rashane Wearing. “I think it’s a great opportunity for new and improved supermarkets. Hopefully, healthy food will come to the community.”

The people who live in these desert communities were optimistic when they left the town hall meeting.

“It is really exciting to see the community come together for this moment, and especially the work that the council is doing upfront to fix the problem,” said Kristen Hodges. “It was really different to hear that Harveys was closed and now they are taking immediate action to keep the residents out of a food wasteland.”

Both council members said they believe the bills will pass and be the encouragement other grocery stores need to get into food desert areas in Jacksonville.

Local organizations also work to ensure that these communities are not forgotten. Together with the city, they are intensifying their efforts to improve access to high-quality, fresh food.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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