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Buffalo Food Equity Network: Introduction & FAQ’s

What is the Buffalo Food Equity Network and who is it for?

Food for the Spirit faciliates the Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN), a movement for Western New York’s new food economy led by communities of color, for communities of color.

You can join the network if you identify as a person of color.

What is the new food economy?

That is a great question! And it is a question that we will be answering continually as we learn and grow together…

What we do know (though) is that a new food economy will provide economic benefit around food. Perhaps that economic benefit will take the form of accessing food or growing our own food, offering food-related jobs for our communities, ensuring access to fresh healthy food for all of our communities, building up neighborhood capital and resources around food and food access, and so much more.

We also know that the new food economy will be led by communities of color, directly benefitting our communities.

Who do we mean by “communities of color” and why do we use that language?

The term “communities of color” is sometimes used to describe communities made up of folks who identify as being from Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, Pacific Islander ancestries, and more.

We have used the term “communities of color” to identify communities of people who make up our network because that is language that is being used by many communities across the country who identify in those ways, and across diverse ancestries.

Why should I join the network?

You should join the network if you identify as a person of color and you would like to connect with other people of color throughout Western New York who are engaged in and/or leading food justice projects in their communities. Again, “people of color” is the term we use to describe people of Black (African and African American), Indigenous (Native American), Asian, Middle Eastern, Latinx, and/or Pacific Islander ancestries.

The ways that you can connect with the network are:

  • Join and participate in our listserv.
  • Share information with the listserv.
  • Come to a BFEN potluck or event.
  • Host an event for BFEN.

How can I join the Buffalo Food Equity Network?

To join the network listserv, you can sign yourself up at https://groups.google.com/d/forum/buffalo-food-equity.

You can also request access to the listserv by sending a message to Rebekah (@) foodforthespirit.org with the Subject Line: “Request to join Buffalo Food Equity Network”.

Buffalo Food Sovereignty Weeks | Harvest Season Food Bag Giveaway

According to the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance: “Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.”

– Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007

2021 Food Bag Giveaway Flyer

Since 2019, Food for the Spirit has coordinated Buffalo Food Sovereignty Weeks’ events each year during harvest season, to coordinate efforts of local Buffalo organizations to improve the health and economy for communities of color in Buffalo. With an emphasis on Black and Indigenous growers and food systems leaders, associated events bring Buffalo communities together to learn with and from each other.

As part of Buffalo Food Sovereignty Weeks events this year, Food for the Spirit is coordinating with Lincoln Memorial UMC First Fruits Food Pantry, Urban Fruits & Veggies, African Heritage Food Co-op, and Impacted Families Project on a Harvest Season Food Bag Giveaway.

The Harvest Season Food Bag Giveaway will take place on Saturday, October 23rd in three Buffalo neighborhoods: Hamlin Park, the Fruit Belt, and Broadway-Fillmore. The groups are not pushing out information about the neighborhood distributions because they each have regular patrons who depend on the limited supply of bags provided in their neighborhoods.

But what makes this event different from regularly occurring food distribution events in Buffalo neighborhoods, is that the Buffalo Food Sovereignty Weeks’ Harvest Season Food Bag Giveaway event connects Black food systems activists with Black farmers, food distributors, and transportation systems to strengthen Buffalo’s Black food system.

It is important that Black folks know that we can be more than simply food consumers, we can be owners in the food and agriculture system, and that is what this event is about.

The participating organizations form a food and agriculture system supported by two Black-owned farms producing healthy and culturally appropriate food for the community (Urban Fruits & Veggies and Moss Family Fruit & Veggies), organizations that operate refrigerated box trucks that transport fresh food throughout the city (African Heritage Food Co-op and Urban Fruits & Veggies), and several distribution organizations that host food giveaways in neighborhoods hardest hit by food apartheid (Lincoln Memorial UMC and Impacted Families Project).

If you have questions about the Harvest Season Food Bag Giveaway or Buffalo Food Sovereignty Weeks, contact Rebekah (@) foodforthespirit.org.

This event is made possible through the support from Seeding Resilience and the WNY COVID Response Fund.

Seeding Resilience; A Coordinated Response to Food Security During COVID-19

“Seeding Resilience’s rapid yet deliberate response is made possible due to pre-existing networks in the community, such as the Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN), a movement of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).” – Dr. Samina Raja, PhD

In 2020, a coalition of over 160 individuals and organizations came together through weekly meetings and coordinated action to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Buffalo. The coalition was called Seeding Resilience and it included growers, emergency food providers, bicycle couriers, food system planners, food justice advocates, researchers, and others.

Dr. Samina Raja, University at Buffalo’s Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab founder and Buffalo Food Equity Network member, wrote an article about the coalition. In the article, she outlines Seeding Resilience’s three-pronged strategy to: (1) rapidly redistribute food to neighborhoods in need; (2) increase food production in the city; and (3) increase employment opportunities.

Raja wrote: “To address the acute crisis, food is being procured from local and/or minority-owned wholesalers and/or farmers. Food is being distributed by Feed Buffalo, an emergency food pantry that intentionally serves healthy and halal food with dignity. Food is being transported by bicycle couriers and volunteer drivers to anyone who requests it, while offering vegan, organic, and halal food. For a more equitable recovery, the coalition is increasing food production city-wide through a network of backyard/frontyard Freedom Gardens, a term coined by Gail Wells, a longtime food justice advocate. Led by a partnership of Food for the Spirit, an emerging organization committed to cultivating spaces for racial healing, ecological justice, and equitable food systems, and Grassroots Gardens of Western New York, a not-for profit organization that supports community gardens, the new Freedom Gardens both respond to the present crisis and seed a more equitable future by giving city residents greater control over their own means of food production.”

She continued: “Seeding Resilience’s rapid yet deliberate response is made possible due to pre-existing networks in the community, such as the Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN), a movement of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).”

Throughout 2020 and 2021, a group of BFEN members and allies served as the Seeding Resilience facilitation and organizing team. That group included: Bethany Ortquist, Bianca Davis, Cameron Herman, Della Miller, Donna Latham-Edwards, Gail Wells, Hope Isom, Jared Strohl, Kelsey Gosch, Kyliel Thompson, Rebekah Williams, Samina Raja, Sashti Balasundaram, Silver Light, and William Gonzalez.

To read the entire article, click here to read it online or click here to download it as a pdf document.

We’re Recruiting! Food For the Spirit Invites Black Farmers in the Genesee Valley Region to Participate in a Collective Marketing Campaign

This Fall 2021, Food for the Spirit is recruiting five Black farmers in the Genesee Valley Region to develop a collective marketing campaign for their farms and farm products.

We want to let the world know about the beautiful work Black farmers are doing in this region and connect the farmers with new values aligned markets and consumers for greater prosperity!

Why collective marketing?

Throughout history, marginalized people have found power in coming together in collective action. This means sharing resources and knowledge, amplifying each other’s work, and finding what we have in common in a world that makes us feel apart.

Why the Genesee Valley Region?

First, big thanks to the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets who are supporting this project. Second, we want to make sure the work Black farmers are doing in this part of New York State is seen, recognized, and connected to resources.

Is this for me?

You are eligible to participate if you identify as Black (from African American ancestry) and either farm or sell your products within any of these nine counties of the Genesee Valley Region: Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates.

How can I get involved?

Contact Emilie Miyauchi at emilie (@) foodforthespirit.org for more information and to get involved.

More details about the opportunity, commitments, and benefits can also be found in this one pager. Click through to get the details.

2021 Freedom Garden Application

Request supplies and materials for a Freedom Garden at your home by completing this form by Friday, May 7, 2021.

Through Freedom Gardens, 50 households in Buffalo will be supported in starting backyard or front-yard raised-beds and container gardens in their own homes at no-cost. If you are a resident of Buffalo living in any of the following zip codes- 14215, 14213, 14211, 14209, 14208, 14207, 14204- you are eligible to receive supplies and materials for a Freedom Garden at your home.

To request supplies and materials for a Freedom Garden at your home, please complete this form by Friday, May 7, 2021.