The City of Lawton Healthy Food Retail Task Force has kicked off its first initiative with the “Buy 2, Give 1” project, designed to increase residential access to fruits and vegetables.
Debra Johnson, task force member and wellness coordinator at the Comanche County Health Department, said piloting these types of programs contributes to making Lawton-Fort Sill a healthier place to live, work, stay and play. Oklahoma is ranked 47th in the country in “health outcomes,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Using produce requires planning ahead to avoid spoilage and waste,” Johnson said. “Additionally, when shopping on a limited budget, a person is not likely to purchase items they are not familiar with due to the possibility of wasting money. We hope ‘Buy 2, Give 1’ will allow everyone a change to increase their produce consumption and find new favorites.”
The program relies upon the generosity of the Lawton community. Task force members encourage residents to buy an extra (produce) item or two to donate to those with limited access. However, pre-bagged and pre-cut produce is discouraged at this time due to the lack of refrigeration at some sites.
Donations may be dropped off or picked up at the following locations:
• HC King Center, 1705 NW 20th
• Patterson Center, No. 4 NE Arlington
• Owens Center, 1405 S. 11th
• Comanche County Health Department, 1010 S. Sheridan
• C. Carter Crane Shelter, 1203 Texas
• Salvation Army, 1306 SW E
• Lawton Food Bank, 1819 S. Sheridan
• Lawton Community Health Center, 5404 W. Lee (drop off site only)
Those picking up items should check in with their preferred/closest site for any applicable procedures, task force members said.
To reduce waste or spoilage, produce that needs to be eaten quickly will be donated to partnering organizations that manage feeding programs, such as Hungry Hearts Feeding Ministry, The Salvation Army, Family Promise and First Christian Church.
“It was exciting to have such quick and positive feedback on this initiative,” Johnson said. “It is a simple idea as long as community support is present. One resource Lawton has no lack of is passionate advocates and volunteers to give back and support those in the community.”
Moving forward, the task force will continue to monitor the initiative and highlight healthy food challenges faced in the community with patrons, growers and retailers, Johnson said. Aside from produce donations, the task force needs additional produce crates for storage.
Organizations or businesses that wish to participate as a drop off/pick up location may call (580) 585-6677.
Task force members plan to share collection and traction data in January. Additional information is available at lawtonok.gov/programs/healthy-food-retail-task-force.