Many have criticized the city of Tulsa for allowing a “food desert” to develop north Tulsa, a significantly less affluent area of the city, while dozens of grocery stores continue to be built in the southern and more wealthy areas. These criticisms come from the fact that the availability of fresh and affordable food is essential for the health of a community, and because of the lack of diversity in their shopping options poorer Tulsans have limited access to healthy foods.
One local supermarket is taking a stance against this injustice by building three IndieMarts across north Tulsa. IndieMart CEO Jane Carus is most concerned that “the impoverished people in this city just can’t reach what you and I can.” Amongst other healthy options, she plans to bring asparagus water and kale acai smoothies to those she feels need it most.
Andrew Halpa, a resident of north Tulsa, is excited by the prospects. “It’s going to be nice,” Halpa notes, “to walk to the store and buy organic, whole grain, gluten-free foods.”
Others have argued that Carus and her team don’t understand the problem. One 12oz bottle of asparagus water from the original 91st and Yale IndieMart is $4.89 before tax. This leaves it out of the feasible price range for many of the same lower-income residents Carus is trying to reach.
Carus is confident, despite criticism, that the stores will succeed. “Once people see, taste, and feel the quality of our food,” she explains, “cost will become much less of an issue.”
She hopes the new IndieMarts will jump start a boom in north Tulsa similar to what has happened to Tulsa’s downtown in the last decade.
She feels that, eventually, “there could be entire shopping centers thriving in north Tulsa.” She also hopes that north Tulsa residents will work at these stores, giving the centers “a warm, welcoming environment filled with neighbors and friends.”
Carus has a long road ahead of her, however. Her decision to build the stores from the ground up instead of renovating buildings gives the project a 16 month projected timeline.
Carus feels the wait will pay off, as “there’s nothing more important than that IndieMart aesthetic” to instigate success.