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CDC: 24 Jax communities lack access to healthy foods

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been a challenge for Rick Bowles, whose been working at Quality Tires for decades, where to go for a healthy lunch or dinner.

"It would be nice to have a restaurant where we could get some decent foods, especially in this area," Bowles said. "You have to go out to the Northside or the other side of town."

Bowles' Northside neighborhood is just one of 24 communities in Jacksonville that lack access to affordable nutritional foods, according to the CDC. Those communities have been labeled as "neighborhood food deserts."

Locals say the food options are fast, but they're not necessarily healthy, leading to increased rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

"As far as whole grains and nutrition in this area, no sir," Bowles said.

"I think what you see in Jacksonville, it's been going on for a long time," said Carol Kartsonis, of Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens. "As our city has been developed, a lot of the businesses are following the new development out, and we see a lot of our urban core -- a lot of those business are leaving. The people are still there. The market is still there."

Kartsonis said one solution is to teach residents how to grow their foods in empty lots along neighborhood streets.

Ronald Pauline has been growing fruits and vegetables in a community garden for more than a year.

"I do know from all I've read, I heard that fresh vegetables go a long way in alleviating certain illnesses," Pauline said.