The recent mass shooting in Buffalo, New York revealed food insecurity issues in the community. Service organizations contribute to recovery efforts by investing in the social and economic fabric of the community.
The shooting at a Tops supermarket, the only supermarket in the predominantly black community of East Buffalo, killed ten people and injured three others. “The attacked Buffalo supermarket was the only grocery store for many East Side Buffalo residents,” said Catherine Shick, public relations manager for FeedMore West New York (WNY), a food bank and nonprofit organization. fight against hunger, at Food Tank. “As a region, we need to make sure our community members have more options for healthy, affordable food.”
FeedMore WNY and its community mutual aid partners are working to ensure that residents of the East Side of Buffalo affected by the mass shooting continue to receive nutritious food and basic necessities. Shick says FeedMore is holding emergency food distributions at two locations near the attacked supermarket so community members can receive a variety of fresh produce, dairy, shelf-stable foods and personal care products.
In addition, Shick notes, FeedMore WNY provides food and support through numerous partner food pantries and community eating sites, nearly a dozen of which are within three-quarters of a mile of the Tops supermarket where the attack took place.
“We are working to make sure the community is aware of these pantries and encouraging our neighbors to use them as a resource. We are also ensuring that these partners in the fight against hunger are supplied and ready to serve more members of the community,” says Shick. FeedMore WNY also operates a Mobile Farmer’s Market, which provides low-cost fresh produce to areas where fruits and vegetables are difficult to access.
Buffalo Service Organizations also launched a community resource document for residents to access support services and find giving opportunities.
More than 13% of people in Western New York don’t have access to enough nutritious food, according to FeedMore WNY. Food inflation, which has reached a 40-year high, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is driving up the costs of food, gas and housing.
“In recent years, challenges such as the pandemic, supply chain disruptions and inflation have exacerbated food insecurity in Western New York and across the country,” Shick says, “and, although there is no single face of food insecurity, we know that people of color are disproportionately affected.
According to a Northwestern University Policy Research Center study, black and Hispanic Americans face double the rates of food insecurity at 36 and 32 percent, respectively, compared to 18 percent for white Americans.
“Systemic racism and poverty are contributing factors to long-standing food insecurity in the region,” Shick told Food Tank. “To eradicate food insecurity – in our country and in the city of Buffalo – we must address not only the problem of hunger and access to food, but all of these root causes to bring about real change and sustainable.”
To support food distribution efforts, some policymakers, including New York Senator Kristen Gillibrand, are pushing for stronger food access infrastructure. In 2020, Gillbrand released a statement to strengthen community food access infrastructure in Buffalo. It calls for investments in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Healthy Foods Funding Initiative and full funding of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program ( FEMA), which FeedMore WNY already uses.
After renovations, the Tops supermarket in East Buffalo plans to reopen. Since the shooting, about a quarter of employees have moved to stores in other locations, according to Tops president John Persons. While some Buffalo residents are eager to have access to a supermarket again, others cannot return due to trauma. As the community heals, self-help responses continue to nourish East Buffalo residents.
“The mutual aid response to help the Buffalo community has been imperative for many reasons,” Shick said. “Not only are people and organizations coming together to ensure our neighbors receive essential support like food aid and crisis advice, it sends a clear and strong message that together we can beat the crisis. hate and improve our community for a better future.”
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Photo courtesy of Joel Muniz, Unsplash