Fixing Food Deserts

Oklahoma and North Dakota actively seek solutions.

August 08, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Rural areas of the United States that have been facing food deserts are getting a few rays of hope in both Oklahoma and North Dakota, reports U.S. News. Officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are making plans to open a new grocery store in a food desert in the city, and construction could begin by summer’s end.

The new store for Peoria, a low-income neighborhood in north Tulsa, has been discussed for the past three years, and it’s possible that the doors could open as early as 2020. The Tulsa Economic Development Corp. received a $1.5 million federal grant through the city of Tulsa to build the 16,425- square-foot food store.

"We've talked about a store in the community for a very long time," said Rose Washington, executive director of the TEDC. "We've had some near hits. We're in a place now where we're almost ready to break ground."

Complementing the grocery store will be a food-growing center. "This is going to feel more like a Trader Joe's than it does a Save-A-Lot," said Jim Bloom, an organic farmer who supports the project.

Meanwhile in North Dakota, lawmakers are planning a study that will help them ensure that groceries are available in rural areas where grocery stores have been closing, according to another U.S. News story.

Jim Dotzenrod (D-ND) called for an investigation into the distribution and transportation of food around the state. The town of Drake, with a population of 275, is expected to lose its only grocery store early next year, a closure that would force customers to drive 30 miles to another town to buy food.

Dotzenrod said he would consider the use of state transportation and excess storage to create distribution centers for small groceries in order to ease the problem of the state’s food deserts.