Health

Every couple of weeks Pawhuska native Henry Harrison will head to the grocery store and load up on fruits and vegetables.

“I will go to the store and I will buy fruits and vegetables, take them home, put them in the refrigerator,” Harrison admitted. “And they’ll go bad, I whined up throwing them out.”

It’s an all too familiar scenario that many can identify with but those especially in Oklahoma. This year, the state was ranked No. 1 for the lowest adult fruit and vegetable consumption by a survey, conducted by Trust for America’s Health non-profit, non-partisan organization.

The study showed that adults in Oklahoma consume fruits and vegetables at 15.5 percent. Oklahoma is also one of seven states with the lowest rates of fruits and vegetables consumption that is in the top 10 in for obesity; Oklahoma obesity rates rank No. 7 in the nation, according to the survey.

Harrison didn’t know about the newly discovered statistic concerning fruits and vegetables consumption and said he is confounded.

“I’m definitely guilty of not eating fruits and vegetables like I should,” Harrison said. “But really this is surprising to me, I would think that our Oklahoma people pretty well grew up with gardens, family gardens so I’m surprised the average Oklahoman doesn’t eat better.”

Harrison, Osage, has lived in Oklahoma his entire life and remembers his parents having a decent family garden and always having plenty of fruits and vegetables with their meals.

At 70-years-old said he is alone and often finds himself eating out quite a bit, which might be why he doesn’t get the fruits and vegetable consumption he needs.

Aside from fruits and vegetables being fairly pricey, Harrison said younger generations have stopped carrying on older way of eating healthy.

“A lot of it goes back to families, parents teaching children to eat better. I know my generation we ate pretty healthy meals as kids until we got on our own, my generation seemed to really drop the ball on passing eating habits on the children,” he said. “I think education is gong to be a big part of getting people to eat better.”

Community gardens, farmer’s markets and plenty of other initiatives had been made across the state and in Osage Country.

Julie Mashunkashey-Miller, Diabetic and Community Healthy Nutritionist for the Osage Nation Diabetes Program, said the diabetes program had a program set up where diabetic patients were given vouchers to purchase fruits and vegetables from a local farmer’s market. The service eventually stopped due to funding.

Miller said she’s learned education is most important when trying to get more people to eat fruits and vegetables.

“I think more people need to go to the store and take their kids and say ‘lets try a new fruit or vegetable for the week and get them exposed,’” she said. “Hopefully most people realize the benefits of fruits and vegetables. Most people just need to learn to adapt, just get it into their refrigerator, cut it up, make it visible, it’s just taking the time to do it.”

Miller said the hardest part is having people educate themselves on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. She said a lot of people don’t know exactly what nutrients they get from fruits and vegetables, and because they don’t know they don’t eat them.

“I know that a lot of people need their fruits and vegetables, and some people they’re just use to saying ‘oh peanut butter and jelly, it’s better, it’s more quick to make for me than having a fruit salad,’” she said. “They have to want to do it, they have to want to see the benefits for their health.”

Debbie Simpson, Assistant Director at the Osage Nation WIC Department, said the WIC program has a couple of programs that allows for its clients to get a little more fruits and vegetables.

Simpson said three years ago the United States Department of Agriculture ordered that pregnant women and children need more fruits and vegetables in their diets, and because of it some of their clients get a little extra for the purchase of fruits and vegetables.

The program only runs in the summer.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) department has also started doing contract work with local farmers. The farmers sign contracts with WIC to set up shop any where around the Nation and sell their fruits and vegetables. She added that Osage senior citizens are also given fruit and vegetables vouchers.