Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alternate Food Sources

Living in Norman, a college town, albeit a large one, I have many choices for how and where to obtain organic, natural, or otherwise non-commercial food. To begin with, up to this point the majority of my food related shopping has taken place at large corporate supermarkets, mostly Wal-Marts. Since I viewed the documentary The High Cost of Low Price, a detailed investigation into the practices of the world’s biggest corporation, I have cringed a bit each time I thought about doing my shopping there. Even with this I have continued to give over my money to the monsters: this is for the most part due to the fact that my bonuses I receive from my job are paid out in Wal-Mart gift cards. Until recently I was unaware of the many alternatives that abound my small city and the great benefits to my body, my community, and most importantly to my environment that come with doing my shopping in them.

The easiest way to do my shopping, with a twist towards my local farming community at least, would be by shopping at my local IGA. Stores operating under the Independent Grocers Alliance banner are more apt to carry local products than the big corporate-owned chains. Where Wal-Mart, Homeland, and similar chains have required distributors for all their goods, IGAs are operated independently of a single entity and therefore have the freedom to choose their own local producers if they so wish. IGA’s business website sums it up the best: “And while IGA has brand standards for image, identity, and store operations to guide retailers toward success, it hasn’t forgotten the most important fact – IGA Retailers are successful because they’re independent and responsive to their local communities” (“Welcome to IGA Online”). Wright’s IGA can be found on the west side of Norman at 36th and Main Street or on the east side on Porter just north of Robinson.

Supposing I would like to support my local farming economy more directly, then the Oklahoma Food Cooperative seems to be the place for me. I can acquire food grown fresh from all over the state by simply placing an order on the coop website ( My order can then be picked up at two locations in Norman: on the east side at the Food and Shelter for Friends downtown at 104 West Comanche between 5:30 and 7:45 P.M. or on the west side from the Unitarian Church at 1309 W. Boyd from 5:00 to 7:15 P.M. (Food Deliver and Pickup..) While not all foods purchased through the coop are necessarily free of pesticides or totally organic, the food comes with a story. By purchasing food from the farmer directly there is an intimate connection made; the food has a curator and cultivator. You are able to see the face behind it all which could make all the difference (Stafford). Besides almost all the money goes directly to the farm or farmer compared to a purchase from the big boys which may result in a mere penny on the dollar to the farmer (Barstow 3).

The best choice from my point of view for a guaranteed organic food experience is to shop in one of Norman’s two most established natural foods stores. Both the Native Roots Market and Earth Natural Foods exist within three miles of the OU main campus and are stocked with both products and people good for the environment (Organic Foods Locator). Native Roots Market is located in the heart of downtown Norman on Main Street; it’s hard to miss the big black and red sign. Their company philosophy is to “purchase fair-trade, organic, humanely and locally produced goods above all others.” I think that falls well within the area of food for the environment, from the environment. They serve regular business hours from nine to nine during the week with shortened hours on weekends (About Us). The Earth Natural Foods has been a well hidden staple of Norman for forty years now. Founded in 1969 it has changed hands four times since (About Me). Before my ventures to The Earth I had never before been exposed to such exquisite smells. The many herbs and spices- all natural- drove my sense of smell into some sort of dream state. Finding The Earth for the first time is a bit like how I would think stumbling upon an ancient ruin in the middle of the jungle would feel. What appears to just be a strangely colored building in the middle of an old residential area turns out to be a paradise for both the mind and senses. The staff on site are quite dedicated to the protection of the environment and in spreading the word to everyone who enters, should they show interest, of the good, positive actions which can be taken. The Earth can be found on Flood south of Main Street and its gates open up majestically six days a week from nine to six P.M., but no Sundays.

The most intriguing option of the three I’ve laid out here definitely ends up being the local Norman shops. Nothing compares to the small store feeling I’ve gotten upon entering and the sense of community permeates throughout, between the staff and customers to those just stopping in for a break to sit in the deli area. However, any of these will definitely give me the sense that I’m doing something good for the environment and for the community around me. It’s entirely up to me what I put into my own body, but at least regardless I can still support the agriculture that is sustainable to our local economy and environment.

Works Cited
"About Me." [Weblog The Earth Natural Foods and Deli] 24 Mar 2009. Web.23 Apr 2009. <>.
"About Us." Native Roots Market. 2007. 23 Apr 2009 <>.
Barstow, Cynthia. The Eco-Foods Guide. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2005. Print.
"Food Deliver and Pickup Locations and Hours." Oklahoma Food Cooperative. Oklahoma Food Cooperative. 23 Apr 2009 <>.
Organic Foods Locator. 2009. Organic Consumers Association. 23 Apr 2009 <>.
Stafford, Jim. Cooperative Shoppers Get Food With a History." Sunday Oklahoman 20 Apr 2008 Print.
"Welcome to IGA Online." The IGA Advantage. 2009. Independent Grocers Alliance. 23 Apr 2009 <>.

This article originally written April 23, 2009 for OU IPE 3913 - Food, Agriculture and the Environment.

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