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Why We Are Here and Needed Revealed in New Study, and Why We May Close

The past few months we have been part of a study of nutrition and health of the folks in our area who use our Welcome Table Corner Store, in increasing numbers. Today we found out the results. Actually these results may be worse here because they also include stats from two other places in the Tulsa area (but based on the survey of our folks done in 2009, these stats seem pretty close to those; we will update when we get the ones for just our space.). This wasn't just a survey where people circle answers as quick as they can; it was more lengthy and conversational, and then the food they select from us was inventoried, and weighed, and its nutritional value assessed. Thanks to OU doctoral program and the Food Bank for working on it with us, and to our neighbors who took the time and vulnerability to participate.

But first before I list the results, let me repeat what I have written on before here after a recent OU presentation, and was reiterated by the survey leaders: the health and life expectancy of people is affected only 10 to 20 percent by care received in a medical clinic or hospital setting (access is very important but it is still, even if all had equal access, only a small part of what makes us healthy). Instead, what we do, working on what people eat, increasing their sense of community and connection, improving the environment, and the renewal of neighborhoods where they live, that counts for the highest percentage of someone's life and health expectancy. But as a society we spend 80 percent of our dollars on what contributes 10 to 20 percent of health. This financial irony, or tragedy, is important and I will return to it after the survey results.

What we found out about our neighbors here who come to our free corner store:
60 percent experience low food security, and 34 percent experience very low food security, meaning they show physical symptoms of hunger and have not eaten that day or regularly.
61 percent say that their health is fair or poor, which is an indicator that within a year they may be hospitalized or die. They are on the bottom rung of health.
In answer to a question posed routinely by the Centers for Disease Control: how many days out of a month do you have bad health days, the answer was a high 11 days; it gets worse when asked about mental health, with the average being 12 days of bad mental health.
41 percent have been told they have depression or anxiety illnesses.
52 percent don't have the kinds of social support necessary for healthy living and especially recovery.
51 percent suffer from depression, 49 percent anxiety, 49 percent high blood pressure, 47 percent high cholesterol, 47 percent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 33 percent diabetes.

(An aside on mental health: I often tell groups that when we relieve a bit of food insecurity, even when it is not with the best healthy food, or give away our free clothing, or host a free community party, or help to get abandoned and neglected areas fixed up, we are making life just a bit less stressful to struggling folks without the resources others have in other areas, and for people with mental health issues helping reduce triggers and stress makes a big difference.)

66 percent are obese and say they want to lose weight. The food insecurity leads to binge eating, which along with the kinds of calories available are indicators of the obesity.
A significant number report having to choose between buying food and paying for medicine and medical care; also a significant number rely on more than one food pantry during the month and still have food insecurity.
The average amount of food we give out to our folks who are only allowed to come once a month will last three to four days (the amount we give out all depends on the amount we can pay for at the food bank in our shared maintenance fees or we get for free from the food bank or can get donated to us, or can grow in our own gardenpark and orchard, which is seasonal). And this 3-4 days is actually less if there are men or active children in the family as studies show that while on average 2,000 calories per person is needed, for them it is at least 3,000 calories per day. So we may only be helping them relieve food insecurity for a few days a month.

What we give out is not always a good contributor to health either, even though it has the other benefits I mentioned of reducing food insecurity. We give out 2600 milligrams of sodium per day in our food and only some 1500 mg is needed per day. We give out 88 grams of sugar and only 32 grams is recommended. We are giving out daily amounts of 300 mg in cholesterol when 200 or less is needed, and this would be worse when we have meat that we can give out; it is at this amount because we haven't been able to purchase meat to give out, even when we can get it for 20 cents a pound through the food bank, when the food bank has it. We are giving out about the right amount of protein, but people report that they feel they need more protein, more meat, so we need to do more education and habit forming so people will feel better about the adequate amount of protein, and how to prepare meals with this level of protein.

Knowing this is why here at our place we also have formed relationships and have present a nutrition counselor from the OSU Extension Center, and why we have representatives from the North Regional Wellness Center of the Tulsa Health Dept to visit with people and help recommend resources; and it is why we have a spiritual director listening to people tell their stories, and to provide the ministry of presence and encouragement of "a listening ear." And above all it is why we have worked in just the past three years to create the GardenPark and Orchard for the community, a park where abandoned houses and trash once was dumped, and now is a place for healthy education, community spirit, and connection, a place that has received state and regional awards, and this month is a finalist for a Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Environmental Excellence Award.

There is the need. There is the response. Here is the tough news; Because of the loss over the past year of financial contributors who had been giving to us on a regular monthly basis the past few years as we were expanding and growing our presence at the park and the community center, wonderful folks who have been our leaders but who have died or moved away or shifted giving to other local groups, we now face a monthly income shortfall of some $600 just to be able to pay the barebones but rising utility bills; we have enough for the mortgage and for phone and internet, but that's it. That doesn't include what is needed for food and program expenses.

So we need to get 60 people to become monthly supporters giving $10 each through our online donation buttons on this page (at, and thats an average, or 30 people giving $20 a month, or just 20 people giving just one dollar a day, or $30 a month. Actually we would rather have 60 people giving $10 or 120 people giving $5 because that increases the shared support and ownership and means if one or two people stop giving we won't be back in the same situation.

We think we are saving lives, making life a bit easier for people struggling, and are bearing witness with our neighbors to many of the inequities and injustice and oppression faced by people here in the low income lowest life expectancy area of the Tulsa area. We hope no matter where you are from you will see value in what we have done, are doing, and can do in the future, and will become a part of this movement of grassroots all volunteer 100 percent mission neighborhood renewal.

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