City hires consulting firm to study food desert in Northwest Jacksonville

When it's time to take a trip to the grocery store, neighbors in Northwest Jacksonville don't have many options.

That part of town is considered a "food desert" -- a place where neighbors don’t have access to healthy food options.

RELATED: Food deserts becoming an issue in Jacksonville area

Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole is taking a closer look at the city's approach to stop the problem.

"People live in poverty because they can’t afford to move out. That means we need to bring services in,” said Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, of District 8.

Pittman says those services include grocery stores.

In March and April, Action News Jax told you a total of six grocery stores closed their doors for good, leaving the people in Northwest Jacksonville with fewer options.

RELATED: Closures of Jacksonville grocery stores could create food desert

RELATED: Jacksonville food deserts that receive food from Feeding Northeast Florida

For reference, on Jacksonville’s Southside at the St. Johns Bluff Road and Beach Blvd intersection, there are a total of 27 grocery stores within 5 miles, but on Moncrief Road and Soutel Drive, there are only three grocery stores within 5 miles.

“It just didn’t start now, it’s been going on for several years,” said Pittman.

Now the city plans to work with T. Brown Consulting Group to conduct a study on how to fix the problem.

There were two other firms interested in working with the city of Jacksonville on the study.

“I wouldn’t call it a study, (it's a) helping real people with real issues initiative,” Pittman told Action News Jax.

In the proposal sent to Cole by the city, it’s set to spend $139,000 to review funding sources, look at current access to healthy foods and draw up a redevelopment strategy.

The study is set to be completed in March 2019.