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OKC Health Task Force addresses food desert crisis in northeast Oklahoma City
“With one of the last major grocery stores on the northeast side closing this week, the food desert crisis deepened. But the OKC Health Task Force is already at work making sure tomorrow is a better day,” said Councilwoman Nice. “This is a problem of both food availability and transportation. With the help of our partners, we’re going to work on solving both problems. Whether you need help or want to help or both, go to neokcfood.com and learn more about us.”
OKC Health Task Force
A food desert, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is an area with disproportionately low income and limited access to a large grocery store. Studies in 2016 by the Lynn Institute and in 2017 by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma found food deserts in the Oklahoma City area, including a vast swath of the northeast side.
OKC Health Task Force is working on the two major problems preventing those residents from access to affordable, healthy groceries: transportation and food availability.
The task force is organizing shuttle resources and other transportation to help people get to a grocery store.
- EMBARK, OU Medicine and the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City are operating two temporary free shuttle services to the closest grocery store, the Walmart Neighborhood Market at 2217 NW 23rd Street.
- The EMBARK shuttle will operate every half hour from 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It departs from the former Smart Saver location, 2001 NE 23rd Street.
- The OU Medicine/YMCA shuttle will operate 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. It will make continuous round trips, with the last shuttle departing for the store at 1 p.m. It departs from the Ralph Ellison Library, 2000 NE 23rd Street.
- Shuttle schedules may change as demand is evaluated. Visit neokcfood.com for updates.
- EMBARK’s existing regular bus service on Routes 022 and 002 serve the shuttle departure points. Other bus routes are also nearby. Visit embarkok.com for route maps, schedules, fares and more. The EMBARK Plus paratransit service is also available to qualifying riders.
Other partners will work to meet unmet transportation needs.
Look for updates at neokcfood.com through a number of community partners, churches, community gathering places, social media and the media.
The task force website at neokcfood.com will feature updated opportunities for food distribution and transportation services. These opportunities will be posted as they’re organized and finalized in the coming days, and updated as needed.
In addition to increasing capacity at existing food distribution centers, the task force will continue organizing pop-up food distribution centers. The pop-ups will be at places where the community already gathers like school and church events, nonprofits and other service partners, and more.
The task force will monitor and expand capacity at food distribution sites as needed.
New food distribution efforts will prioritize reaching residents in the 73111, 73117 and 73105 zip codes. In the event demand exceeds supply in some cases, priority will be based on need, with an emphasis on people age 60+ and families with children.
Task force partners
The OKC Health Task Force benefits from the support of a broad array of community partners:
- City of Oklahoma City
- Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
- Oklahoma City-County Health Department
- Lynn Institute
- OU Medicine
- YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City
- Metropolitan Library System – Ralph Ellison Library
- American Heart Association
- Filling Tummies
- Restore OKC
- Oklahoma City Housing Authority
- OKC Black Eats
- Community Health Centers of Oklahoma
- The Salvation Army of Central Oklahoma
- Health Strategist
- Skyline Urban Ministry
- Vinyard Fruit and Vegetable Co.
- Metro Technology Centers Springlake campus
- Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service
- Numerous other local organizations, nonprofit groups, churches and residents.
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