Local reporting confirmed and expanded the findings on food inequality in Tulsa.
Over the course of 2017, Gallup Surveys partnered with Tulsa to find out how Tulsans feel about their economic opportunities and quality of life. Last week, Fox23 News provided an overview of the survey’s findings from the finalized report for 2018. While nearly 50 percent of respondents believed that Tulsa is improving as a city overall, the Gallup study revealed that there are locations in Tulsa that have less access to fresh food than others. These are referred to as food deserts.
This term does not necessarily mean that citizens in these locations cannot afford to buy enough groceries. Rather, it means that these citizens do not have access to stores or markets to buy food at all. The USDA is responsible for identifying such areas. In Tulsa, the largest food deserts are in north Tulsa, downtown and neighborhoods southwest of downtown. Often, these areas contain a low-income population.
In addition to the issue of food deserts raised by the Gallup survey, The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma states that one in six adults and one in four children face food insecurity. Efforts to improve food accessibility have emerged over the past few years. For example, The Tulsa World spoke to Katie Plohocky and Scott Smith of R&G Family Grocers who transformed a former horse trailer into a mobile grocery truck that brings food to these deserts. The food comes from grocery store leftovers and volunteers who harvest food from farms.
Perhaps the speed in which cities are growing leads to these food deserts, as planners cannot keep up with developments. If transportation to grocery stores or markets is not already too expensive for those who live in food desert areas, high costs of fresh food from farmers’ markets or stores like Whole Foods prevent low-income members of a community from access to fresh or healthy products.
Healthy foods are often too expensive for low-income people. At fast food restaurants, salads are priced higher than hamburgers and fries. So not only do low-income citizens not have convenient access to grocery stores, they also lack sufficient access to healthy foods.
TU students have shown interest in easing the troubles of those living in food deserts. Students from multiple organizations on campus frequent the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and have even created benevolent organizations of their own.
Students Austin Boyington, Darcy Elmore, Nick Langston and Dhruv Varshney were inspired by their Global Scholars class projects on food accessibility to form Students Against Food Inequality. Last semester, Carter Bradford formed Pay It Forward TU, which aims to bring meals and clothing to homeless or low-income Tulsans. With these efforts, TU students reflect the fact that Tulsa as a whole is an incredibly generous city with countless non-profit organizations aiming to help a variety of causes.