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Rural Oklahoma: How far do you drive for groceries?

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: April 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm •  Published: April 16, 2014

I’m working on a story about rural communities that are considered food deserts, and I want to know: How far do you drive for groceries?

I grew up in a rural community about 12 miles from a Walmart. If we wanted something quick — milk, bread or eggs, for example — we went to a convenience store  about two miles away.

I bet there are plenty of Oklahomans who can beat me in the distance they drive to the grocery store.

Thirty-two of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are classified as food deserts, meaning that at least 25 percent of their population lives 10 miles or more from a supermarket or supercenter, according to this report.

Based on this map (which is a bit dated) nine counties in Oklahoma are considered severe food deserts:

You can see what kind of food access your community has via this map from the U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture.

As this report points out:

“As retail food stores get ever larger, with traditional mom-and-pop grocery stores and supermarkets being replaced by ‘warehouse clubs’ and ‘supercenters,’ food sources are literally getting fewer and farther between.

This trend in the retail food industry has been evident for over a decade. Between 1992 and 1997, 9 percent of the grocery stores in Oklahoma went out of business.

From then until 2002, urban Oklahoma counties gained a total of 15 new food retail stores — but the state as a whole lost 28 food stores, overwhelmingly from less-populated counties.

As smaller and more remote food stores close up shop, warehouse clubs and supercenters are taking their places. The number of these doubled during that same time period, from 26 in 1997 to 52 in 2002. Most of these are opening in suburban fringes of Oklahoma’s largest urban centers.”

Please post in the comments below how far you drive to the grocery store and what kind of food options are available in your community. Thanks! 

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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