EDITORIAL: Support a farmers market to help your health, local businesses
Our View: Supporting local farmers markets can help combat the state's rising obesity rate.
On Saturday, Oklahoma’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the State Department of Health collaborated on an event at the Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma City Farmers Market that aimed to raise awareness about where our food comes from, who benefits from our purchase power and how our health is affected by our decisions.
FEAST — Food Education, Awareness and Security Transfer — is a program to which many more Oklahomans should be exposed. Not only does the program help participants save time and money in the kitchen, but it familiarizes consumers with natural foods.
The gardening, local food and food security are important since Oklahoma ranks as the seventh-fattest state in the nation. Though we’re high in the ranks, having a statewide obesity rate of 31.4 percent is nothing to be proud of.
Part of FEAST’s mission was to distribute its Farm-to-School Cookbook, which will go to every school district and all school food-service providers in Oklahoma. It includes strategies to get food from the fields to kids while bypassing large corporations, unhealthy processed foods, and transportation and shelving costs at grocery stores.
Farmers markets are designed to link community members with local agricultural products and crafts. Since vendors are the producers, packagers and transporters of their products, customers can ask the vendor how and where the product was produced, under which conditions it was produced, and how it was packaged and transported. This saves the confusion of reading food labels, calling a company to receive information or going to the company’s website. You also don’t have to guess what the ingredients are and what they mean.
Local Farmers Markets
You can shop in confidence.
Supporting farmers markets are not just beneficial for your health and state of mind, but your support also helps the vendors. Through farmers markets, farmers and small-business owners can make their product available instead of falling through the cracks of big business and industry.
Though this program was a scheduled event, one can consistently reap the benefits of the local food movement at farmers markets in the area. The OSU-OKC Farmers Market, 6001 Western Ave., is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The Historic OKC Farmers Public Market, 311 South Klein Ave., is open Tuesday though Sunday, times vary by vendor. The Cleveland County Farmers Market, located at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, 615 Robinson Ave., is open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Wednesdays.
An alternative to farmers markets is the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. The co-op is unique because not only does it sell Oklahoma-made products exclusively, but you shop online and pick up your food at a coordinated pick-up site. An annual $51.75 fee is required to join, but this funds the system and makes the consumer just as much a part of the cooperative as the producers.
A lifestyle change is in order to combat the rise in obesity throughout the nation. In 1991, there weren’t any states in the U.S. with an obesity rate of more than 15 percent, but today, Colorado is the only state with an obesity rate below 20 percent.
Oklahoma is just one of 12 states with obesity levels over 30 percent.
So visit a local farmers market, research committing to a co-op or make the conscious decision to change your lifestyle.