Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive August 2015 Show 1535 Coping with Life in Food Deserts

Coping with Life in Food Deserts

We look at Oklahoma’s food deserts, areas where fresh food is unavailable, and the work going on to turn around the trend.
Coping with Life in Food Deserts

Coping with Life in Food Deserts

For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry

R&G Family Grocers

Oklahoma Food Security Summit

Show Details

Show 1535: Coping with Life in Food Deserts
Air Date: August 30, 2015



Rob McClendon: Well, access to fresh, healthy food is not a problem for most of us even if we choose to not take advantage of it. But there are those communities without a grocery store where fresh fruits and vegetables are available.

Rob McClendon: It’s called a food desert, an area, whether rural or urban, where fresh food is simply unavailable. While inconvenient for some, for others, food deserts can contribute to everything from a neighborhood’s decline, to malnutrition and obesity. The late Stephen Eberle was instrumental in the establishment of Tulsa’s Food Security Network.

Stephen Eberle: A food desert is a neighborhood where there is literally no place to find real food or whole food; there are only convenience stores and fast-food chains. There is no place to buy a loaf of bread, milk, cheese, meats, dairy and fresh vegetables; they literally don’t exist.

Rob: Now, for many neighborhoods here in Tulsa, finding a local grocery store can be about a 10-mile trip; not a huge problem if you’re driving in a car, but if you’re dependent upon public transportation or on foot, it makes finding fresh food virtually impossible. A problem only acerbated in the more rural parts of Oklahoma. The USDA has mapped food deserts in all 50 states – click on Oklahoma, and where you find all that green, well that’s a food desert – with the largest patches in rural Oklahoma.

Doug Walton: And many of our rural residents are elderly and also lower income, and we have higher poverty in rural populations. And transportation becomes a real issue in rural counties as the distance from the store increases. And so the options that are left are often convenience stores or very small grocer-type stores that lack selection and also tend to have higher prices.

Rob: And while long stretches of road are often to blame in rural areas, it’s the simple lack of transportation that limits others in Oklahoma City. Within the shadow of the state Capitol, Kevin Johnson walks blocks, past closed food stores, to just pick up a bag of groceries.

Kevin Johnson: Well, they’re really kind of spread out around here, there ain’t too many around here, so it’s not really easy. You don’t just have to go a little ways or whatever.

Eberle: We’re killing ourselves in Oklahoma on the dollar menu; that’s where we’re eating, rich or poor, food stamps or not, we’re eating processed food only, and it’s killing us. We see children with Type 2 diabetes that shouldn’t have it at all, but they’re obese, they’re eating nothing but processed foods full of sugars and salts. And, and that’s the dilemma.