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Oklahomans #1 in Fast Food Spending

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LAWTON Okla_ It's no secret: Oklahomans love their fast food. Now, there's a new report out that said we love it more than anyone else in America.

The report released by the Intuit Consumer Spending Index ranks Oklahomans #1 when it comes to who spends the most on fast food per month. For the month of May 2013, the study showed the average Oklahoman spent $101 on fast food. Arkansas came in 2nd, spending $84. At the bottom of the list was Vermont, where they spent less than $28.

There seems to be a lot of contributing factors, most of which just stem from culture. While Oklahoma was top in spending, it was really the entire South to Midwest region that rounded out the top spenders.

Our area is notorious for bigger waist lines, and now it's showing up in our wallets.

"It sells, and people like convenience," Comanche County Health Department's Kyle Rogers said.

Rogers thinks convenience is why fast food is so prevalent in our area, but she said if more people knew what they were eating, that might change.

"Education plays a huge role in this," Rogers said. "People don't realize that when they purchase all these convenience foods they don't think it's that unhealthy. They think it's cheap, it's quick, so it's served its purpose."

Convenience and affordability are two of the biggest contributing factors to why Oklahomans spend so much money on fast food. It seems no matter where you look there's another fast food place popping up and of course fast food takes a smaller bite out of your wallet.

"We have a lot of families and people that are high poverty areas, lots of low income families," Rogers said. "So, convenience foods are always easier. They're cheaper. People are working two jobs, they're on welfare, they're on food stamps, and they don't have time to go to the store and purchase all this healthy food."

Another big thing is lack of variety. In states where they spend the least, like New York and California, they have many options.

"In Lawton, Oklahoma where we have a brand new Jack in the Box, and people are going two or three times a week, because they're so excited of something new," Rogers said.

Rogers said they are widely aware of the fast food problem. It shows in all of our stats. Oklahoma remains 43rd in overall health and 48th in obesity. She said they're working with fast food restaurants, schools and families on how to incorporate healthy decision making.

"What we're doing on a local level is to approach it from all different avenues," Rogers said. "So, we work in the schools and try to educate kids on eating healthy and what to do when they go shopping with their parents. We tell them not to eat out of the vending machines. So, when they become adults, they will purchase healthy foods. They will be healthier."

For the full year of 2012, Oklahomans spent on average $1,314 on fast food, compared to New Yorkers who spent on average only $330 for the whole year.

Rogers and the report both show while we rank the highest in spending, fast food consumption and obesity have both been flat over the past several years. They say that doesn't mean the obesity problem in America is solved, but it might show we are moving in the right direction.

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