Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive August 2015 Show 1535 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1535

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1535

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we meet some people trying to solve food insecurity issues with a little work in the garden.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1535

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1535

For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry

Metro Technology Centers

Metro Career Academy


R&G Family Grocers

Oklahoma Food Security Summit

Show Details

Show 1535: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: August 30, 2015



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Well, while Oklahoma is an agricultural state, we also have several areas where there’s limited access to fresh food. We’ll look at that paradox today and examine some solutions to it.

Courtney Maye takes us to Oklahoma City to see how a garden outside a state office is inspiring a new generation to grow their own.

Alvin Chandler: Once you see these kids, they’re out here working hard, then they see the things that are being produced from the work from their hands, you know, it just does something to them emotionally.

Rob: We’ll meet an award-winning team who put together Oklahoma City’s first student-led farmers market.

Jona Kay Squires: We can talk about it all day long in the classroom, we can show ’em, field trips, bring in guest speakers, but until they actually do it physically and understand all those components, they don’t understand it and get it.

Rob: We will look at the continuing problem of food deserts in Oklahoma and see how one Tulsan is rolling right past it.

Katie Plohocky: Everybody wants real good food. That’s the bottom line.

Rob: Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Male Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Female Announcer: Oklahoma’s investment in CareerTech provides more than nationally recognized technology education and training. It produces solid financial returns for the state’s economic future. Oklahoma CareerTech, elevating our economy.

Male Announcer: And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. And now, from the CareerTech studios in Stillwater, here’s your host, Rob McClendon.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Well, chew on this. Over the course of this next year, one in four Oklahoma children is at risk of going to bed hungry. It’s called food insecurity, and it’s a definition given by the USDA to households where consistent access to adequate food comes up missing at some point during the course of the year. And as troubling as those statistics are, some of the solutions to the problem are just as encouraging. This summer we traveled to some unlikely spots to meet some innovative Oklahomans trying to close the gap between the people who grow our food and the people who eat it. Joining me now is our Courtney Maye.

Courtney Maye: Well, Rob, you no longer have to live in the country to grow your favorite plants and vegetables. Gardening in cities is more popular than ever. From backyards, rooftops and vacant lots, 15 percent of the world’s food is grown in urban areas.

Courtney Maye: At the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry, what once was a small flower garden has been transformed into a flourishing community garden, producing a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Micah Anderson: It used to be a perennial like some types of flowers and perennial bushes and things like that.

Courtney: Micah Anderson is the marketing development coordinator at the Department of Agriculture and says the garden is growing not only fruits and vegetables but also relationships.

Anderson: And it’s evolved and it’s gotten better and better every year. We’ve got more participants coming out of the building to come and help, and people that work in it, they harvest and take stuff home. It’s a great to bring people together to work, taking breaks from just sitting in front of the computer, coming out to work early in the morning, doing some weeding. I think it’s just a healthy mindset just to clear your mind.

Courtney: While creating a bond among coworkers.

Sarah Rakowski: I think if it weren’t for the garden committee, I wouldn’t know half the people that I do that aren’t on the first floor and where I sit. So it’s just gotten me a little out of my comfort zone, and I’ve expanded my gardening knowledge for sure.

Anderson: It’s something that everybody can talk about regardless of what race you are, where you come from, and I’ve always noticed this about farmers, there’s no, there’s no barriers. All the barriers are broke down. So when you come to the garden all your barriers are broke down. And I grew up in a neighborhood and it was like, you know, you know we had white neighbors and Indian on one side and white on the other side, and we all helped each other and worked with each other. We were just trying to get stuff to grown and produce.

Courtney: An attitude that volunteers like Alvin Chandler hope to spread across the community. Chandler works with young people on how to plant and grow their own crops. I met up with Chandler at a community garden in north Oklahoma City.

Alvin Chandler: Most of the kids here, you know, the young men who are here, they’re involved in a program called Youth Builders Inc. And what Youth Builders Inc. is designed to do is face some of these disadvantages that a lot of these children have coming from the community that they’re in. Disadvantages – meaning that poor nutritional value, which is simply education. So what we’re trying to do is expose some of these kids to just the nutrition that comes from just raw vegetables and fruits and trying to get ’em aware that this is gonna be better for them actually playing sports. Because that’s what a lot of these kids do in Youth Builder, they play sports. So if we can get ’em involved in eating better it actually transfers into ’em being better athletes.

Courtney: And how important is it do you think to get urban kids involved in agriculture?

Chandler: Extremely important. You think in terms of just something as simple as academics, you know. Research shows that if you’re eating better you’re sleeping better, which is gonna transfer into you being able to get up the next day with enough energy to be able to transfer it into the classroom. So we see it as increasing their academic ability by eating, just simply eating better.

Courtney: And Chandler’s organization isn’t the only one seeing the value of agriculture, Shay Omakhomie is an organizer for EOUG – Empowering Our Urban Girls.

Shay Omakhomie: It’s just a fascination for them to actually see the process and actually be a part of that. You know, again, that’s a seed that is being planted in them, and they look forward to the next thing we’re gonna do. What are we going to do next? What are we, are we gonna get to go back? Are we gonna get to plant, and are we gonna pick the vegetables and fruits? It’s just, I love to see that type of spirit in something that is really a necessity for them opposed to video games and technologies – that kid spirit that they should have. I see that again, and I love it.

Courtney: What are some of the changes you have seen in these kids emotionally and how have you seen them grow?

Chandler: Absolutely. One of the things is just simply coming out here and working – working in the garden. Micah, Mr. Anderson, you know, when he first brought me along he said it was a spiritual transformation and actually it is. Once you see these kids, they’re out here working hard, then they see the things that are being produced from the work from their hands, you know, it just does something to ‘em emotionally, it does something to their psychology, they just feel good about themselves.

Courtney: It’s a spiritual transformation changing the lives of everyone involved with a central focus on giving.

Chandler: A lot of young people don’t have the opportunity to have both parents in their life. So to me as a young man, to be able to give back to young guys who don’t have their fathers in life, just kind of be a positive role model, a positive influence to them and just to give back as far as agriculture-wise, show them a different view of things.

Courtney: Eric McHenry volunteers in the garden every week.

Eric McHenry: You can be a sports guy, but you can also be an agriculture guy as well. Learn how to produce your crops. Grow your crops. And also be able to produce for your family and your community as well.

Courtney: Well, Rob, community gardens promote healthy lifestyles and also create food security in low-income areas. They also provide therapeutic opportunities while promoting agriculture.

Rob: Thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob: Now, when we return, we’ll meet some students learning to sow to grow.

Male Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon,” featuring some of the good things that are happening in the great state of Oklahoma.

Conference Announcer: In 2014, Metro Career Academy was awarded the $50,000 Cox Connects Community Impact Grant to fund Oklahoma City’s first student-led farmers market.

Rob McClendon: Well, Oklahoma City’s Metro Technology Center was honored this month for an initiative designed to provide students with a unique interdisciplinary learning opportunity by creating their own farmers market. Called “Sow to Grow,” it brought together horticulture, culinary arts and entrepreneurship career majors to operate their own small business while meeting the local community’s needs for fresh fruits and vegetables. And we were there on its opening day.

Jona Kay Squires: OK, smile, 1-2-3.

Alisa Hines: With a scissor snip, the Metro Tech Career Academy Farmers Market is open for business. Jona Kay Squires is the horticulture instructor and says it’s a typical farmers market.

Squires: What you’re seeing here today is the farmers market, and we can’t count on the weather so we moved it inside. And you’re seeing vendors from all around the state of Oklahoma. Some have come as far as Duncan, Okla., to -- we have -- I have former students that are here, third-generation agriculture producers. There’s a gentleman over here, he’s a lawyer by day – he’s an agriculture farmer 24 hours a day. We kind of have a joke about that. Our students are having, you know, their projects and the things that they’ve either grown in the garden as well as things they’ve done in the classroom.

Alisa: And Jona Kay says it’s that hands-on experience that helps the students really grasp the concept of entrepreneurship.

Squires: I guess because for the students to learn, you know, it’s, it’s just the whole opportunity. They get to put all of those things together. They get to actually go from production to consumption, become the business, the entrepreneur. They get to work side-by-side with other producers, entrepreneurs. We can talk about it all day long in the classroom, we can show ’em, field trips, bring in guest speakers, but until they actually do it physically and understand all those components, they don’t understand it and get it. And so I guess to be honest with you, we, you know, we felt like that was the best way for them to get it. And for our community, actually, economically, you know, we hope we’re encouraging some other great things from it.

Alisa: Student Sawyer Austin loves the experience.

Sawyer Austin: We are growing our own vegetables out in the garden by the greenhouse. We’ve propagated them and everything all our own. It’s taught me a lot about how to keep a garden up – what to use, what not to use, what not to do in a garden.

Alisa: And for student Evan Mander, it’s teaching him how to keep things growing.

Evan Mander: I’m learning how to grow something and not kill it. Because I can kill – if you put a perfectly well plant in my hand, I can kill it just by looking at it. It gives me responsibility to where I, like my cattle – I’m responsible for them. If they don’t have water, they don’t live. If I don’t feed them, they don’t live. So it just builds more to where you’re having more responsibility when you get out of college and high school and you’re, when you’re in the adult world.

Alisa: Even though they’ve been preparing for this day, it’s kind of surreal to the students.

Squires: I don’t think it’s all come to them until today and being involved in it. And I’m curious to see that growth with them as we continue each one. Because I think some of ’em are nervous, some of ’em are scared. What we’re seeing is a lot of ’em are getting excited about what’s going to be my job? Or can I help do this? Or do you want me doing this, this skill? So I -- you’re seeing their confidence build from that, and you’re seeing them understand that it’s a lot bigger project, but they can actually give a lot more to it and that they’re open to a new experience.

Customer: Thank you so much.

Squires: You can’t put a price tag on that. You know that’s that education by tuition by learning, and I think that’s the best part, and I think that’s what CareerTech does really exceptionally well. We take all that cumulative book knowledge, technical knowledge, and we get to take it to a real experience and a real opportunity. And I, and I’m passionate about that, and I’m passionate about the fact that, you know, agriculture – none of us can live without it – gotta have it every day. And that’s the good thing -- I get to tell them, I mean, everybody needs you – you know what I mean? Where would you be without it? So they get to be a part of that, and I think that takes, that gives ’em that confidence and it gives ’em a skill set to really be able to achieve some pretty phenomenal things.

Alisa: And there is one very important reason to have the farmers market at their school.

Squires: There’s an economic investment. There’s a healthy food investment. Where this school and where we’re at, we’re in one of the worst ZIP codes in the state of Oklahoma. And that was kind of the thing that we talked about was – our kids complain about our lunches, we complain about having healthy foods, but healthy foods that tasted good, and so that’s kind of was the springboard for what kind of also helped us start the project.

Alisa: Healthy foods grown locally by local students.

Mander: Come to our farmers market every Friday from 10 to two.

Rob: Now, those at Metro Tech tell us none of this could have been possible without a $50,000 Cox Connects Community Impact Grant to get the “Sow to Grow” program up and growing.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” a good for your health food truck, but first, food deserts.

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.

Rob McClendon: So if you can’t get fresher, healthier fare, what if it comes to you? Well, that’s the concept behind a novel idea that has hit the road in Tulsa. Here is our Andy Barth.

Andy Barth: Well, Oklahoma ranks 44th in the nation when it comes to overall health. Thirty percent of our adults are considered obese and so are 17 percent of Oklahoma’s children, startling numbers that drove one group from Tulsa to find a way to get fresh healthy food to all Oklahomans.

Andy Barth: From veggies to fruits, the R&G Grocery Store gives customers the food they want, but couldn’t always get.

Katie Plohocky: Everybody wants real good food. That’s the bottom line.

Andy: Katie Plohocky is the owner of R&G Grocery, a store that offers up fresh produce in an unusual way.

Plohocky: This is the Real Good Food Truck. It’s a mobile grocery store that goes to neighborhoods that are considered to be in food deserts -- they have little or no access to fresh foods -- and also senior living facilities because of transportation difficulties.

Andy: And today’s stop, a senior living center in Tulsa. And waiting outside the store is resident Claudia Kleeman who sees the mobile grocery as a real benefit.

Claudia Kleeman: It’s been a real blessing for our community because we’ve got 305 apartments and it’s a senior community. They have to give up their cars so they can’t easily drive to the grocery.

Andy: And because of this grocery store on wheels, Kleeman says her neighbors are now more independent.

Kleeman: There have been some that have come down here and bought their own groceries for the first time in maybe 10 years.

Andy: And with their newfound freedom, customers have a lot to choose from.

Plohocky: We have over 500 products. We specialize in fresh produce, vegetables and fruits. We also have some prepared meals, milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt. We carry limited toiletry items. We have baking supplies, canned goods, cereals, beverages – only healthy, we don’t, you won’t find pop on this store.

Andy: Plohocky volunteers her time serving on her food truck. And the money she does make goes right back to buy more food. Yet it’s the people she serves who make it all worthwhile.

Plohocky: I get excited every day when, you know, people say how blessed they are that we’re here.

Andy: And customer Francis Gott couldn’t agree more.

Francis Gott: It saves me a trip to the big store, which I don’t do very well.

Andy: And Gott’s neighbor Lela Kirby loves the accessibility and prices.

Lela Kirby: It’s convenient, easy and the prices are great.

Andy: And to offer such low prices Plohocky says she does a lot of shopping.

Plohocky: We opportunity shop, which means I shop all the sales at every single one of those stores have. So instead of them going to one store and getting one set of sales, they get the sales from every single store in a 30-mile radius.

[NATS: That one’s $1.60, what a deal].

Andy: It’s a lot of work, but Plohocky says it’s worth it to bring good food to good people.

Plohocky: We have an epidemic in the United States with obesity and increased heart disease and Type 2 diabetes in children. And I think that in the long run, by providing real good food to all we can reduce our health costs. I mean, we spend $71 billion a year just on diabetes, which is a preventable disease. Couldn’t we use that money to do better things and have a healthier community and quality of life?

Andy: Serving the community by providing quality healthy food, which leaves her customers wanting more.

Gott: I’ll be back.

Andy: Now, Plohocky says while this food truck does help a lot of people, she hopes to start another truck to serve even more. She also hopes to grow the business large enough so she can hire employees.

Rob: Well, all right. Thank you Andy. Now, when we return Katie Plohocky joins me in studio.

Rob McClendon: Want to share something you’ve seen here today? Well, all of our episodes are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV, or you can subscribe to our weekly free podcast on iTunes.

Rob McClendon: Well, Katie Plohocky is the founder and executive director of R&G Family Grocers and works extensively on food security issues and joins me now here in the studio. Now, before we begin, update us on the food truck.

Katie Plohocky: R&G Family Grocers is doing very well. Actually, we currently have 14 location stops within the city of Tulsa, six days a week. We have a waiting list about an arms-length long, so we’ve just purchased a second trailer. We just need to build it out.

Rob: Now, from doing the story with you on the food truck, I know that you serve a lot of seniors. Is that a vulnerable population?

Plohocky: Yes, it is. Our senior population is growing at a tremendous rate as our baby boomers get older. Some of the folks that we see, they can’t go to the grocery store so they depend on others to bring them groceries. If they don’t have any family, that makes it even more difficult. Sometimes we have to actually take the food to them in their apartment. They’ll call us and give us an order. You know, our grocery store’s a Band-Aid. It’s not gonna solve the problem. To solve the problem, you need people living in the communities starting small grocery stores again. And they need to be selling produce, and they need to know their neighbors, and they need to create jobs and wealth back into those communities. That’s the real long-term change that needs to take place. So in the interim, you know, how do we, how do we do that using community gardens? We can grow it and give it to our neighbors. We can give it to those food pantries that help get it to those who need it. We can help folks in our own neighborhood grow if they don’t know how and you know how. You know, hold a class and say this is how you take care of a tomato. There’s a lot that can be done but it takes all of us working together in order to meet that need.

Rob: And I’m assuming all these things will covered in the upcoming Food Security Summit this fall?

Plohocky: Yes it will – Oct. 30 at Tulsa Community College northeast campus. We’ll be looking at everything from planting a seed to recycling their produce at the very end.

Rob: All right, Katie. I certainly appreciate you coming by. Hope the Food Security Summit goes great. And it is on Oct. 30 in Tulsa, and we do have a link to that on our website.

Rob McClendon: From the motto on our state seal to the backbone of our people, Oklahomans have never shied away from work. Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look at some of the fruits of our labor.

We have lost respect for dignity. Technical jobs have been the bulwark of the middle class, have created the American strength we enjoy today.

Rob: A Labor Day week show where we get to work, on “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Well, thanks for including us as a part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.

Male Announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Thank you for watching Oklahoma Horizon.