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Watch Now: A year after pandemic hit, Tulsans still line up by the hundreds for free groceries
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Watch Now: A year after pandemic hit, Tulsans still line up by the hundreds for free groceries

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Taylor Hanson talks about Food on the Move's impact to the Tulsa community during their first year of donations. Ian Maule/Tulsa World

A long line of cars snaked through the parking lot and into the street late Tuesday afternoon as hundreds of people waited for free groceries. And the Rev. Robert Turner pointed at the lamp posts, not yet lit for the evening.

“It’s when darkness hits that the streetlights come on,” he said. “I’m thankful that God has placed several streetlights here in Tulsa.”

The real streetlights, of course, were the volunteers and donors and workers who were sorting produce, packing boxes and getting ready to distribute truckloads of food to the waiting cars. Food on the Move took over an entire parking lot at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa to mark the one-year anniversary of its drive-through giveaways, launched in March 2020 to help feed Tulsans who had been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19.

The lines have grown longer, not shorter over the past 12 months, said Turner, pastor of nearby Vernon AME Church.

“You can see how much need there is,” he said, his eyes following the line of cars as it stretched down Greenwood Avenue north of downtown.

Over the past 52 weeks, Food on the Move has organized 153 events, served more than 600,000 meals, and distributed about 3.5 million pounds of food, officials said. Like usual for a Food on the Move event, Tuesday’s included a DJ and several food trucks to create an almost festival-like atmosphere.

“We’re always kind of proud when we see people lined up down the street like this,” because it takes an enormous effort to provide food to so many families, said Taylor Hanson, founder of Food on the Move but better known for being part of the Tulsa-based rock band Hanson.

“But we’re also completely floored by it,” Hanson said, because it means so many Tulsans can’t afford to feed themselves.

“I see the potential,” he said. “If we can come together in a time like this, I believe we can do anything.”

Thanking volunteers and donors during a brief ceremony, Food on the Move officials called Tuesday’s event “Tulsa Strong” because the year-long effort has required broad support from across the city, said executive director Kevin Harper.

“Every box of food we give out represents hope,” Harper said. “It represents a city that wasn’t going to give up.”


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