The city of Fort Meade, in rural Polk County Florida, has been designated as a Food Desert by the USDA. Food deserts are defined as parts of the country without easy access to fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, and are usually found in low-income communities. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers, which is the case in Fort Meade, where a former grocery store had been closed and vacant since 2012.
Financing for Fresh Choice Market Place was provided as part of FCLF’s Food Access Program, established to increase access to fresh, healthy foods in low-income, food insecure communities. FCLF has received funding for its Food Access Program from the U.S. Department of Treasury CDFI Fund’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), and from the Florida Healthy Food Financing Initiative (FL-HFFI). These funding sources, along with FCLF’s private capital, deploy flexible financing for projects that provide ready access to fresh foods and can, in turn, improve health indicators such as diabetes and heart disease.
However in the months since the store opening, numerous complaints have come in about the store. Complaints have ranged from poor sanitation, butcher scraps placed in dumpster to rotten meat, selling food out of date, changing sell by dates on food. Many efforts have been made by local citizens to inform the store management about these issues and the change has not been initiated.
Residents are encouraged to contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Consumer Services. The division serves as the state’s clearinghouse for matters relating to consumer protection, consumer information, and consumer services regardless of whether the specific industry is regulated by the department.
How to file a complaint:
- If you would like to file a complaint by mail, please use the attached complaint form. You can attach copies of any supporting documents you feel appropriate – please do not submit original documents. This will ensure that we have all of the required information to effectively assist you.
- If you prefer to file your complaint electronically, you can click here to submit your complaint online. When filing online, you will have the option of uploading supporting documents. Once you successfully submit the online form you will automatically be provided an Online Complaint Number as confirmation.
Upon receipt, your complaint will be assigned to a case manager who will review your complaint and take the following action:
- If your complaint falls within the jurisdiction of another agency, it will be referred to that agency;
- If your complaint falls within thejurisdiction of the department, your case manager will attempt informal mediation to resolve your dispute and evaluate the business for compliance with applicable statutory provisions; or
- If your complaint is filed against a business that is not regulated by any federal, state or local governmentagency, your case manager will attempt informal mediation to resolve your dispute.
Photo courtesy of local resident of lunch meat bought Sunday April 28th 2019.