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With Link to Pop Star Taylor Hanson, PSO’s Container Garden Is a Hit

by on April 25, 2023
mmmbop pso food container thumb
William Woods, left, shows off the PSO/EPRI container garden to PSO President and Chief Operating Officer Leigh Anne Strahler, Food On The Move President and CEO Kevin Harper and Food On The Move founder Taylor Hanson.

A container garden cosponsored by PSO is the latest weapon in the battle against Tulsa’s food deserts.

And, thanks to the involvement of pop star Taylor Hanson, the effort is catching the public’s attention.

“PSO is excited to be part of this important project that will help build a more resilient community, increase access to healthy food and encourage STEM education,” said Leigh Anne Strahler, president and chief pperating officer of PSO. “Container gardens represent the crossroads of agriculture and technology. They produce abundant crops in a clean, energy-efficient manner.”

In October, the container garden was moved to the Tulsa campus of Food On The Move, a Tulsa nonprofit working to end local food deserts with an emphasis on using innovative solutions against legacy issues that have perpetuated hunger.

The unit uses LED lighting, recirculating water pumps, and advanced electronics and sensors to cleanly produce healthy food.

The container garden has been a model of productivity, said William Woods, who manages the unit for Food On The Move. By being careful about HVAC operations, Woods says the unit uses about 50% less power than comparable indoor agriculture units, but produces almost four times more food. The garden produces up to 78 pounds of kale a week — enough to serve 600 families — but only needs five gallons of water a week.

Taylor Hanson, founder of Food On The Move, came to fame as a member of the pop group Hanson, the three-brother group propelled to public attention by the 1997 Grammy-nominated hit “MMMBop.” The Tulsa-based band made a memorable appearance on “Saturday Night Live” and has continued to record and tour.

Hanson joined Strahler and other stakeholders Wednesday in a celebration of the unit’s success and potential, attracting the attention of community leaders and the media.

Hanson saluted the partnership with PSO and EPRI as a valuable way forward in his nonprofit’s goal to help feed the people of Tulsa.

“We believe in the power of innovation and partnership to help combat food insecurity and transform communities,” Hanson said. “The partnership utilizing the PSO/EPRI container garden has already embodied innovation, not only between Food On The Move and PSO, but directly with the communities we serve every day.

“We cannot wait to continue to serve our neighbors through the power of growing produce and bringing healthy food to all of Oklahoma.”

Food On The Move distributes the kale and a wide variety of produce at three community and food resource festivals each month. Each participant receives 30 pounds of fresh produce, a hot meal, and other assistance, such as health checks and resume assistance. Food On The Move also distributes food through existing food nonprofits, such as Catholic Charities. The group plans to add a much larger aquaponic facility and a low-cost grocery store on its site, located in the heart of Tulsa’s food desert.

The need is real in the area immediately around the container garden, said Kevin Harper, president and CEO of Food On The Move. A whole series of social problems grow from food insecurity, he said, “In north Tulsa, we’ve had a food crisis for decades.”

Hunger Oklahoma reports that lack of food increases illness and reduces academic performance, costing Oklahoma $1.4 billion a year. Some 19% of Oklahoma households experience food insecurity.

Strahler said the container garden is also an important tool for STEM education. Food On The Move has established an elective class at Tulsa’s Madison Middle School where hydroponics, aquaponics and food preparation using container garden produce are taught. PSO has used its long-standing connections with Oklahoma FFA to promote the use of container garden data in student indoor agriculture studies.

Frank Sharp, technical executive for EPRI, said the Tulsa container garden is one of 20 that EPRI has sponsored with U.S. utilities, including units cosponsored by SWEPCO and AEP Ohio.

After a year of producing kale to gather data comparable to other EPRI container gardens, Food On The Move plans to grow a variety of vegetables there.

To learn more about Food On The Move, including volunteer opportunities, click here.

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