BeyondBelief contributor Sallie Godwin spent a recent Saturday morning volunteering with the All Souls Community Resource Bank’s (CRB) Farmers’ Market program, bringing people from Tulsa’s food deserts to the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market. Check out her photo essay covering just one of the many programs the CRB provides as a partner agency of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.
The Cherry Street Farmers’ Market is a feast for the senses, with the aroma of basil, the sound of lively fiddle music, and displays of fresh vegetables arranged so artfully that they could be in a still life. Add three All Souls members and a busload of senior citizens to the mix, and grocery shopping becomes a party.
“Could it get any more fun than this?” Joe Nurre asks. Joe, Deanna Tirrell, and her husband Tom Tirrell make up a crew that takes one or two busloads of senior citizens from their north Tulsa homes to the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market every fourth Saturday, almost year round. Joe heads up the CRB.
CRB Saturday Special: Delight
The CRB is an All Souls committee focused on getting the best nourishment to the people who need it most. The program is a partnership between the CRB and the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market, which receives a grant from the Tulsa Health Department allotting each participant $10 a month for fresh produce. The senior citizens live in Jordan Plaza and Jordan Plaza 3, which are owned by First Baptist Church North Tulsa across the street from the apartments. They are subsidized by HUD.
“There’s an element of cat herding that goes along with the transportation, but that’s part of the program. The Farmers’ Market folks have a lot of fun with the Jordan Plaza folks and they look forward to it every month. Another element is the vendors themselves, who take a special delight in the folks we bring out,” Joe said.
Watermelon To Go
Jordan Plaza resident Evelyn Colbert grew up in Haskell, where her parents kept a large vegetable garden and her mother canned produce to use all winter. Evelyn bought a bag of green tomatoes to fry. Her seat-mate, Rosalyn, and several others, purchased watermelons. For the bus ride home, someone set a watermelon on the floor next to the drivers seat. When Tom accelerated, it rolled down the bus, generating lots of laughter. “Watermelons are round, after all. We need to remember that,” one jokester shouted.
Jordan Plaza residents qualify for SNAP, (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and can also use “Double Up Bucks, from a federal program that allows SNAP recipients to get two-for-the-price-of-one produce when they buy it at a farmers’ market. Both programs are at risk of being discontinued under the current USDA administration. The Tulsa Health Department gives the Jordan Plaza residents $10 a month to spend at the Farmers’ Market through a program called Pathways to Health.
More than Veggies
The wheelchair lift on the All Souls bus comes in handy for Jordan Plaza resident Edward Smith, who uses a scooter to get around. Edward is a retired cook who used to work in some of Tulsa’s best-known cafeterias, including the Piccadilly. Edward bought snap beans, potatoes, and cantaloupe.
But it’s not just the food that excites participants. One Jordan Plaza resident named Cynthia put it best: “This is a great service to the community that renders the opportunity for us to experience much more than fresh vegetables. The socialization is a great asset,” she said. And the CRB crew confirms that it is as fun for them as it is for the shoppers.