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Q&A: An Oklahoma conversation about access to vegetables, affordability of food

Access to healthier food is often a conversation topic among lawmakers and health leaders. Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank, says what's missed in the conversation is whether people can afford that food once access is improved.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: February 20, 2013

People are becoming more interested in where their food comes from and how it's produced. There aren't good statistics on how many people grow their own food, but it's estimated that 1 billion people in the world grow food for home consumption or to sell.

“In the United States, this is sort of the result of foodies and hipsters wanting to gain a closer connection to their food source, so what's better than growing it in your own backyard?” she said.

Nierenberg said there are organizations that help build food systems in cities. Growing Power, formed in 1993, helps provide communities with safe, affordable and healthy foods.

In Oklahoma City, CommonWealth Urban Farms is a local food network that works to redevelop vacant lots. Its website is

Sustainable OKC, at, also has information about local efforts.

How can cities improve food access?

“It's not just about putting grocery stores in urban food deserts,” Nierenberg said. “It's about making sure that people have access to the food that they want and are able to afford it.”

Nierenberg said the fact that people can't afford food is often lost in the conversation about accessibility to food.

Regardless of whether a community wants to bring in a grocery store, a farmer's market or a mobile food truck with fresh vegetables, the food provided must be affordable enough for the residents, she said.

“If you think about food as a human right, and all people can afford is chips and soda, and they can't afford brown rice and vegetables and humanely raised and environmentally sustainable meat, then we're not doing something right here,” Nierenberg said. “We want everyone to eat well, but we're not making it happen for them.”

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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