City officials will try to expand a transport service to grocery stores to reach the New Town neighborhood, where residents have to take long bus journeys to shop for groceries they cannot buy in their own community.
Councilor Ron Salem called for the review after a story about food deserts in the Sunday edition of the Florida Times-Union quoted New Town residents as expressing frustration at the difficulty of getting to grocery stores and items like fresh ones Products to buy.
“It’s just heartbreaking and if we can look into that I would certainly appreciate it,” Salem said during a meeting of the Council’s Committee on Transport, Energy and Utilities.
“Fair request,” replied Kirk Wendland, director of the city’s economic development agency.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is keen to expand door-to-store service, JTA spokesman David Cawton said after the meeting.
He said JTA supported adding the new town area and would “continue to work with the city on the details and feasibility”.
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The city and JTA have teamed up to launch a pilot project called Door to Store in February 2020, which builds on JTA’s ReddiRide program, which allows for shorter trips in 11 different parts of the city, much like someone doing a taxi service calling to plan a trip.
Door to Store is located on the Northside ReddiRide Zone and offers rides from homes within the zone to seven grocery stores and the Jacksonville Farmers Market on Beaver Street.
The New Town neighborhood is just outside the zone, so residents regularly take the bus when they want to go to a grocery store.
Van Davis, 79, told the Times-Union that it is a short walk from his apartment to fast food restaurants, but if he wants cabbage, apples or freshly cut meat, he has to get on two buses within two hours Get off for shopping at his nearest full-service grocery store 2.3 miles away – the Harveys supermarket near downtown.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture regards the New Town community as a food wasteland as it is a low-income area where more than 500 residents do not have a supermarket within a mile (1.6 km), the Times-Union reported.
The door-to-store service is part of the city’s strategy of connecting residents with grocery stores.
The Office for Economic Development has allocated a budget of $ 3 million to combat food deserts. The city spent $ 750,000 to bring the story of a Rowe to North Edgewood Avenue and $ 850,000 to lure Winn-Dixie into the space vacated by Publix in the Gateway Town Center.
The city used $ 200,000 to partner with Feeding Northeast Florida on “mobile markets” in various locations.
The door-to-store program was started as a one-year pilot program and will continue for another year. Wendland said the service made an average of 140 trips per month. He said the COVID-19 pandemic was making the program difficult to evaluate, so another year should decide whether to continue the program.
“It started in February and we all know the world changed in March,” he said.
The city council will vote at its session next Tuesday to approve $ 75,000 for a second year of door-to-store service.
City Councilor Danny Becton said he would support the continuation of the pilot program, but said the city and JTA still need to find a long-term solution that involves thousands of trips each month instead of hundreds.
“The money is running out and what do we have to show for it?” He said.
The usual fee for trips in JTA ReddiRide zones is $ 2 per trip. However, door-to-shop trips in the Northside Zone are free of charge for trips to and from grocery stores.
JTA also offers free rides via ReadiRide to the vaccination sites at Regency Square Shopping Center for seniors and others who have vaccination appointments.