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NW Jacksonville Council Members Looking To Address Food Deserts

Apr 6, 2018
Originally published on May 9, 2018 2:54 pm

With two grocery stores set to close about 10 miles apart on Jacksonville’s Northwest side, some city officials are concerned residents won’t have enough access to healthy, fresh food.

Council members Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown are meeting with the community about the issue Thursday evening.

A big yellow banner in front of Harvey’s on Edgewood Avenue declares “Entire Store On Sale.” Along with the Harvey’s on Dunn Avenue, it’s in the process of closing as parent company Southeastern Grocers declares bankruptcy.

“Tonight we’re going to have a conversation,” Katrina Brown said. “We may have some solutions.”

For instance, she and two other council members are co-sponsoring a bill to appropriate $3 million from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Trust Fund to incentivize supermarket owners to locate in the Northwest area, and to hire an expert in the grocery industry to help come up with a plan.  

“What we’re hoping to do is to hire a consultant,” she said.

Because it’s been a struggle getting grocery stores to open in some areas, like around Moncrief Road and Mrytle Avenue.

The non-profit Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation built a strip mall at that intersection and was planning a grocery co-op there, said CEO Paul Tutwiler.

“We have more than a five year journey in our efforts to bring a grocery store here and there are some lessons learned, best practices and sometimes ambitions and desires do not translate into actual projects,” Tutwiler said.

He said the nonprofit is now working to lure a traditional grocer to come in as opposed to a grocery co-op.

He said his nonprofit has cleaned up the land for potential grocers after working with the Department of Environment Protection and acquired permits.

“We’re saying by the summer of 2019, we expect a grand-opening,” he said, although he didn’t say if a specific grocer had expressed interest.  

Several Northwest zip codes, like Tutwiler’s, overlap with an area called Health Zone 1, known for health disparities including high rates of diabetes and heart disease.

Tutwiler will share about his efforts in getting his community fresh fruits and meats at the food desert meeting at Highlands Regional Library Thursday at 6 p.m.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.   

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