Efforts Underway to Ease 'Food Desert' Conditions in North Tulsa

Tulsa's north side has struggled for years as a so-called "food desert" - an urban area lacking easy access to affordable, fresh food. But, now, a group is hoping to change that.

On a plot of land behind the Department of Human Services, volunteers are planting seeds of change. "One-in-four kids goes to bed hungry at night, in this state, and we're trying to undo that," said volunteer, Joe Wilkinson.

A community garden, right off of Peoria Avenue in north Tulsa is beginning its fourth year. Its purpose is to bring fresh produce to an area that may not, otherwise, have it.

"There's a lot of people that want to know how to grow produce, but they don't know how and that was one thing we started doing was inviting the community out to learn the beginning to the end process," said Kenda Woodburn with the OSU extension.

"We all hear about 'food deserts' and the issues of not enough places to get real, quality food and, so, it just makes sense to be here," Wilkinson said. That issue is one that is all too familiar to north Tulsa residents. The area has been without easy access to things like fruits and vegetables for years. In many cases, those who want to get fresh food are forced to take a bus, just to find it.

"You've got the lowest income on this side of town, there's a food desert on this side of town, there's no transportation, no sidewalks," one north Tulsa resident told Tulsa's Channel 8 in interview, earlier this week. The frustration has been building for a long time and while community gardens like this, grow in popularity, it may still not be enough to fill the void on this side of town.

"We're in an area where, you've heard - a lot of crime in this area and it makes you really wonder, 'How much of this is nutrition-related?,' and I believe, there's a big portion of it - bigger than what we believe - that does result in crime, down the road."

Regardless of how difficult it may be, these volunteers are working to change a community, one seed at a time. "You know what we've discovered - we call this a community garden and I thought we were gardening, but it's really about the community," Wilkinson said.

The garden was started by the brothers of St. Lawrence and the Department of Human Services. Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture have since gotten involved, as well.

Organizers and volunteers are expecting their biggest crop yet, this year.