Many Oklahomans are currently living in food deserts, especially in southeastern Oklahoma. And Oklahoma City is ranked as the second worst city for food access.
“Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.”- USDA, Food Deserts
It’s estimated that 23.5 million people in the US live in food deserts. More than half of those people are low-income. These people are often forced to shop at convenience store where food costs are high and largely pre-packaged food with low nutritional value and high calorie counts.
The lack of a grocery store leaves communities with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet-related diseases. This is the case in Southeastern Oklahoma, where we see the largest concentration of food deserts in the state. Counties like Atoka, Choctaw, Coal, Le Flore, McCurtain, and Pushmataha have a serious lack of grocery stores and are also one of the poorest regions in Oklahoma.
“The trend in Oklahoma has been for a few large retail chain stores to open in areas where consumers’ incomes are the highest, leaving the most affordable food to Oklahoma’s most affluent areas, according to the report.”- NewsOK, Parts of Oklahoma get ‘food desert’ label
There are some projects popping up around the state to help combat the food desert problem. Valley Brook, one of the many food deserts in the state, has a community garden helping to bring fresh food to the area. And in Tulsa, R&G Family Grocers has a mobile grocery store helping to bring healthy food to the people in Tulsa’s food deserts. And earlier this week, the Oklahoma Food Security Submit was held in hopes of addressing many of these issues.
Ending food deserts must be a priority in Oklahoma.
Do you live in a food desert? Check out NPR’s food desert finder. What do you think we can do to help end food deserts in Oklahoma? Share in the comments below.
Original Photo Credits- Small Town OK