In Northeast Oklahoma City from Kelly Ave. west to 1-35 and from NE 16th north to NE 78th lies the zip code of 73111. This rectangular area of land is one of the unhealthiest zip codes both in the state and the nation.
My co-worker and I are part of a coalition in Oklahoma City that is working to make healthier lifestyles a common part of Oklahoma City life. For our December meeting the coalition was challenged to bring a healthy snack, and buy all of the ingredients in 73111. What a great challenge this was!
Since neither one of us was extremely familiar with this area we started by using a GPS to search for grocery stores. The first “grocery store” we found was actually a run down convenience store, we did not even bother to look inside. The next store was published as a “food market”. This had to be more promising, right? As we entered inside we realized this was not a grocery store at all. The shelves were lined with scarce amounts of groceries, mostly canned goods and boxed items, all which were covered in a thick layer of dust. There was no fresh produce, no whole grains, not even any milk. So we struck out again.
After a few more minutes of searching the neighborhood we were actually able to find a branch of a locally owned grocery store. While this was a huge step up from the first two stores it was still about half the size of most grocery stores in Oklahoma City and offered a lot less products. We were able to scrounge up enough produce to make a salsa and grabbed (what I think was) the only box of whole grain crackers in the store.
I wrote this post because I wanted to share what an eye opening experience this was for me. As I dietitian I tell people how to eat and what healthy is, but I always blindly assume these people have healthy foods and produce available to them. As a society we naively think if someone is not eating healthy it is because they made the choice not to, but what about the population who is never given a choice?
It breaks my heart to realize we are living in the year 2013 yet there are families right here in Oklahoma City that have very little access to fruits, vegetables, and milk. Many families in this neighborhood do not own a car so they can’t just drive over to the next zip code, and would you want to be walking far in this cold winter weather? I am so glad I got to take part in this challenge. From now on I will be much more mindful of what “healthy” options are available to those I am working with. I will also not take for granted anymore the short drive I have to 3 or 4 different grocery stores within my area.