Food Banks, Farmers Markets Provide Fresh Food To Needy Families
TURLEY, Oklahoma - Getting food to hungry Oklahomans is the mission of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.
This month, they sent a mobile food pantry to Turley, and it was packed with something extra.
Melia Shuman, one of the volunteers, pitched in for a cause that's near to her heart and her stomach.
"This is the third or fourth time I've helped out, but we get food from them so it's a way of giving back," said Shuman.
The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma stages these mobile food banks year 'round. This is the third time this year they've come to Turley, and this time the focus is on fresh produce.
Folks started lining up early to get their share of plums, bananas, watermelon, and milk—all of it a godsend to people like Melissa Holloway and her two young sons.
"We go paycheck-to-paycheck, and we don't hardly have any money left for food after we pay for the rent and electricity," said Holloway.
Reverend Ron Robinson runs the Third Place Community Foundation in north Tulsa, and has seen the consequences of families who stretch their budgets with cheap, processed food.
"We have a fourteen-year life expectancy difference between us and the highest area, which is just six miles to the south of us," Robinson said. "Part of that unhealthiness is due to nutrition and diet, and the obesity that comes along with poverty."
In fact, Oklahoma ranks among the lowest in the nation for fruit and vegetable consumption.
Bringing healthier food to areas like this one is a major goal this year for the food bank, which enables people to live better lives, look for jobs, or get back to school.
Another effort to get fresh fruits and vegetables to lower income families is launching at the Cherry Street farmers' market.
The program is called "Double Up Food Bucks," and essentially, it means that when folks use their SNAP benefits at the farmers market, their money will be matched up to $20.
That program begins this Saturday.
For those outside of the Tulsa area, many Green Country farmers' markets have begun to accept SNAP cards. For a list of participating markets, check the Oklahoma Department of Human Services list.