LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -The Lawton Food Bank is emphasizing the importance of a produce-enriched diet.
Each March, National Nutrition Month brings awareness to the difficult health issues some families face daily, due to financial hardships. Many of their diets don't include produce, simply because it was too expensive, and until recently it wasn't offered through the Lawton Food Bank.
Six months ago, the Lawton Food Bank started offering fresh produce after they realized just how many people, including children, were going without it. Jeri Mosiman, the Lawton Food Bank's executive director, says they were shocked to see how many people deprived themselves of the essential nutrients because it wasn't in their budget.
Lawton Food Bank patron Beulah Randle loves shopping the produce section, something that's new to her in more ways than one.
"I wasn't always a big fan of vegetables and all of that, but the older I get my taste buds change. So, I'm loving it and can't get enough of it. I love coming here so I have that option," Randle said.
Mosiman says while most of us have the luxury of choosing to eat healthy or not, for others, the only choice they're left with is eating inexpensive junk food in order to pay their rent.
"What they're really trying to do, those families, is get enough food to satisfy their need for food. The hunger. They do not want their children to go hungry, to have those hunger pains," Mosiman said.
Mosiman says while fresh produce can be expensive, the Lawton Food Bank is doing their part to make healthy food options the norm for their patrons.
"It gives them an opportunity to give those things that are high in nutrition to their family that they would not be able to afford to purchase at the store," Mosiman said.
Mosiman says patrons like Randle prove the fresh produce is big hit and is needed. While she says there are still people who haven't quite bought into the health kick just yet, she's confident they'll come around.
"Every once in a while there will be people who will bypass that. Especially when we have something that's unusual that they aren't accustom to seeing. They'll ask or maybe they'll be a little intimidated because nobody wants to admit they don't know what say a sweet potato is or what a mango looks like," Mosiman said.
Mosiman says those who work at the Lawton Food Bank feel honored they can lend a hand to people during their time of need.
"It's wonderful. There's nothing better. I think that's our purpose. We were all put on this earth to help one another in any way that we can," Mosiman said.
Mosiman says patrons can get food once a month, instead of every six weeks. That went into effect March 1. Their choices of fresh produce includes oranges, potatoes and beets.
Mosiman says while more people are starting to come in and request fresh produce, they can still feed more. She says because it is fresh, it has a shorter shelf life. She says if they don't come and get it, they're faced with throwing it away.