U.S. Rep. Al Lawson says Winn Dixie closures creating food deserts

Congressman Al Lawson wants to speak to the Secretary of Agriculture to try and combat the deserts.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—In a post on the congressman's Facebook page, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson claims the many Winn Dixie stores closing throughout the state could create food deserts in his district.

A food desert is created when there is a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables within a few miles of a home. They're usually found in impoverished areas.                                               

Lawson's district stretches from Tallahassee at its westernmost edge to Jacksonville at its easternmost edge.

This week, Winn Dixie confirmed stores in Jacksonville and Tallahassee are closing. The grocery store chain based in Jacksonville has closed at least three stores in the last week.

We have reached out to Winn Dixie's corporate office to find out if there will be more stores affected; when just two stores closed in our area this past week, 130 employees are to lose their jobs. A spokesperson would not directly answer our questions about how many stores will close.

Joe Caldwell, the manager of corporate communications for Winn Dixie, says that restructuring is common in their business and any decision to close a store is not taken lightly. "We are seeking ways to optimize our network," Caldwell said in an email to First Coast News.

"In the last year, we have landed two flagship stores, remodeled over 90 stores, and announced the closure of approximately 20 stores," he continued.

Lawson expressed concern at the stores' closing. "We know that access to food is a real issue in our community," he wrote on Facebook. "He told his constituents he will speak to the new Secretary of Agriculture about the creation of new food deserts in his district."

Elderly community starts petition

Madison Manor residents in a complex situated behind the Beach Boulevard Winn Dixie closing in June say the closing leaves them with no option for groceries.

Minnie Smith walks with a cane to the Winn Dixie, taking her time, sometimes three times a day. She one of many living in the 55 and up apartment building who travel to the store with wheelchairs and walkers.

"Everybody over there is devastated, they don't want it to close," said Smith. "We're elderly, it's really hard for us to get around and go far out."

Smith said she signed a petition started in the apartment complex, but she's not hopeful that it will affect the closing. 

"We're all scared, we don't know what to do," said Smith. "We really need the store for our convenience, to get food."

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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