Oklahoma has seen a marked boom in the past decade in its health food options, but whether or not this increase in will have staying power has yet to be seen. With the success of businesses such as Whole Foods Market in Brookside, which will soon open another location in south Tulsa, other chains are also beginning to see the Tulsa metro as fertile ground for health-centered business growth.
One such newcomer to the scene, Green Acres Market, is a regional, family owned business. When asked about the choice to set up shop in Jenks, store manager Angie Ramsey said, "Part of it is that we are regional."
"Most of the Midwest are in the top 15 most obese states in the nation." Ramsey said, highlighting the need for such an enterprise.
Although not local by origin, becoming locally involved is one thing at which natural foods stores excel. For example, Green Acres Market hosts classes several times a week, and they are trying to find other ways to reach the wider community, Ramsey said. "We are looking forward to getting involved in the public school system," she said, highlighting a recent tasting done at the Jenks Public Schools. "The more people show their demand for it, the more we can do."
More local than local, farmers' markets are another aspect of the area's new health-conscious scene -- a business and cultural movement that continues to grow. Anywhere something is growing these tend to pop up.
Among the most successful in the metro are the Cherry Street and Pearl markets, but they are not alone. The movement has extended to include areas that have too often been excluded from the health trends -- which often require a certain affluence to gain access. The North Tulsa Farmers' Market is one such example. At 2620 E. 56th St. N., it is located in an area that some have called a "food desert," where citizens have fewer grocery and other food choices within their own neighborhood.
Headed by the Newsome Farm, the family took it upon itself early on to teach the community about the importance of health consciousness. Reaching out to both the adults and children of the area, they soon had an awakening.
"I did not realize that things my kids took for granted, these kids were willing to jump up and work for." said Damelda Newsome, who co-owns Newsome Farm with her husband. "We taught them survival through the garden."
Providing resources to a community that had been previously plagued by generations of heart disease and atherosclerosis, the work that the Newsomes are doing is important. Adhering to the belief that the success of a society can be measured by the quality of life afforded to its poorest members, the Newsomes strive to remedy the health-ills brought about by poor choices as well as poor options.
"You are only as good as your neighbors. ... If you are not healthy your neighbor is not healthy" Newsome said.
With 9,798 Oklahoma deaths by heart disease recorded in 2009 according to the National Vital Statistics Report, and 2,192 deaths in the Sooner State from stroke, it would seem that this is an issue that needs to be addressed immediatelty. In relation to the field of natural food options, there have been strides made to help not just the already well but also those usually left wanting.
In stark contrast to the once only mainstream grocery-accepted government assistance programs, food stamps are now accepted at many farmers' markets as well as at Whole Foods and other organic groceries. Looking beyond ideas of entitlement and taxpayer dollars, this concept is vital because it illustrates the new standard of health on a nationally recognized scale.
Organic produce and non-GMO products have now become not only an option, but it would seem they are also gathering steam to become an essential part of our culture. This in turn answers the question as to whether this fad is here to stay, as it is now integrated beyond its novelty to become a lucrative market, not only supported by those who have the surplus to pay the higher prices, but also by those who do not.
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