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Editorial: Oasis Fresh Market living up to its goal of trying to improve health disparities

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Tulsan of the year Johnson (copy)

A.J. Johnson, founder of the Oasis Fresh Market, just added Double Up Oklahoma, a program offered by the state, that matches the value (up to $20 per day) of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars spent for fruits and vegetables.

Oasis Fresh Market has added a program for its customers that incentivizes the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, important staples of a healthy diet.

The market at 1725 N. Peoria Ave. opened a year ago to end the food desert drought that had plagued that area for nearly 15 years. The lack of a full-service grocer has been a contributing factor in health disparities between those neighborhoods and other sections of Tulsa.

Before it opened, data showed that in Tulsa City Council District 1, where the market is located, 93% of the population had limited access to fresh, affordable, quality food, compared to 19% of other Tulsans. Life expectancy in the area is 11 years shorter than in south Tulsa neighborhoods.

Oasis has changed that lack of access by offering an array of fresh options.

To encourage customers to purchase more fresh, healthful items, it has become the first Tulsa store to offer Double Up Oklahoma, a program of Hunger Free Oklahoma since 2019. The program is funded by the USDA GusNIP Program and through the support of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Ascension St. John and the Tulsa Area United Way.

The program matches the value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars spent to buy fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets and grocery stores, up to $20 per day.

The goal is to help families on a low-income budget better afford fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. It also helps local farmers sell their products.

Most of the vendors participating in Double Up Oklahoma are at farmers markets and mobile markets. Only 10 participants are stores, and eight of those are in rural areas.

This is the type of programming designed for Oasis Fresh Market, which is not a typical grocer. It is more of a community center serving as a partner in improving quality of life for its customers.

That means coming up with programs and outreach beyond thinking of food options on the shelves.

Owner A.J. Johnson has spoken about data on the economic and health challenges experienced by his neighbors. That information leads the decisions on the types of food and healthful eating education offered to customers and on ways to keep food affordable.

Double Up Oklahoma addresses both of those issues.

It is no secret that the more calorie- and sugar-packed foods are cheaper than fresh options. Families with limited income tend to choose those items to have enough for everyone.

Now customers at Oasis Fresh Market can get more for their SNAP dollar. They can get more apples, oranges and leafy vegetables for salads instead of a prepackaged carton of doughnuts.

We congratulate Johnson and his staff for successfully finding programs that benefit customers and for leading the way to improve health outcomes for Tulsa.


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