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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 30, 201802:12 PM EST

Firm to study Northwest Jacksonville food desert

Jacksonville committee selects consulting firm from Riviera Beach
by: Scott Sailer Staff Writer

The city's Professional Services Evaluation Committee selected T. Brown Consulting Group LLC to perform a Northwest Jacksonville Food Desert & Grocery Store Study.

The city says Northwest Jacksonville is a “food desert,” an area where residents have limited places to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy food, and is seeking help to fix it.

The contract is set to not exceed $105,000, with a completion date of March 31.

Paul Crawford, deputy director of the city's Office of Economic Development, said the price was negotiated and the completion date has a six-month renewal option. The applicant's original fee submitted was a flat fee of $139,510. Crawford stated T. Brown Consulting submitted “the most responsive response.”

The city opened bids July 25, responding to submissions to a request for proposals for consultants to study the issue. The evaluation committee chose T. Brown Consulting Group of Riviera Beach on Aug. 30.

In addition to T. Brown, two other companies submitted proposals: DRMP Inc. of Orlando and Mount Tabor Consulting LLC of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The consultant will examine the grocery store industry and offer food desert solutions and ways to encourage grocery stores to come to the neighborhood.

The study would be used by the city to create policies and programs, including incentives, to bring healthy-food stores and educational programs to Northwest Jacksonville.

In the request for proposal, the city said it prefers consultants that have industry experience with food desert strategies and consulting experience in the real estate and grocery store industry.

A food desert is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “a geographic area lacking access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas, largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”

The lack of healthy food options means residents may have no choice than to eat less healthy foods.

In addition to making healthy food choices available, grocery stores and other providers also would improve the economic stability of the area.

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