Interview: CUNY Urban Food Policy Monitor

Food for the Spirit and members of the Buffalo Food Equity Network have been instrumental in the development of the Good Food Buffalo Coalition (GFBC), an advocacy organization committed to bringing the Good Food Purchasing Programs (GFPP) to Buffalo and Western New York.

As the CUNY Urban Food Policy Monitor says: “By emphasizing racial justice, elevating the role of Black farmers, and promoting values-based procurement to safeguard the well-being of Buffalo students, the GFBC demonstrates their dedication to inclusive decision-making processes that prioritize the voices and concerns of those most affected by racial injustice in the food system.”

In this interview with the CUNY Urban Food Policy Monitor, Food for the Spirit’s Co-Founding Director, Rebekah Williams, and GFBC Campaign Director, Jessica Gilbert-Overland, talk about the GFBC’s commitment to racial justice, community engagement, and sustainable food systems, and how Food for the Spirit and members of the BFEN have informed the coalition’s development.

Click here to read the article.

Click here to learn about the Good Food Buffalo Coalition.

Click here to access the full issue of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Monitor.

Farm to School Workshop Update

On March 25, the Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN) Farm to School team hosted a wonderful workshop with 27 adults interested in serving as adult mentors for youth in Buffalo schools. The workshop took place at public school number 309, East Community High School, located at 820 Northampton Street.

The BFEN Farm to School team hosted the workshop in partnership with Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) Child Nutrition Services as part of their Celebrating Cultural Diversity through Buffalo Farm to School, Erie County SNAP-Ed, and Say Yes Buffalo. By partnering with Say Yes Buffalo we were able to host our workshop as part of the school’s Saturday Academy, wherein the high-level of community engagement and phenomenal foot traffic ensured that we got to interact with many people.

As a part of our workshop, we offered a hands-on cooking demonstration, conducted by SNAP-Ed educator, Unique Brown. By using the school kitchen for the cooking demonstration, we got to know the food service staff who run that school kitchen.

During the workshop, we shared personal narratives and experiences with food and agriculture, and we led several interactive, popular education based activities, including: a “What is Food?” word web, a “Farm to Cafeteria” food system brainstorm, and a conversation on how to support positive youth development. We also handed out free crock pots to each workshop participant.

For many of our BFEN team members, hosting the workshop at a public school in Buffalo was a return to childhood. A couple of us were so excited when we even recognized one of the food service staff from our own school days; seeing her for the first time in many years brought up great memories!

At the end of the day, our team left the workshop with a feeling of excitement for many future possibilities.

The BFEN Farm to School Team Members who designed and facilitated the workshop were:

  • Allison DeHonney
  • Bryana Hassan James
  • Dennice Barr
  • Donna Latham-Edwards
  • Gwen Baxley
  • Hope Isom
  • Neena Hussey
  • Nnenna Ferguson
  • Pamela James
  • Rebekah Williams
  • Sheila A. Bass
  • Sherman Webb-Middlebrooks

Click here to learn about the Buffalo Public Schools Celebrating Cultural Diversity initiative.

Click here to learn about Erie County SNAP-Ed New York programming.

Click here to learn about Say Yes Buffalo’s Community Schools Programming.

We Hired A Director for the Buffalo Food Equity Network!

In 2022, Food for the Spirit and members of the Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN) embarked on a 6-month candidate search to fulfill the position of Director of the BFEN. In January of 2023, the position was fulfilled by Nnenna Ferguson!

Nnenna Ferguson is a creative, an emerging leader, and Buffalo native with a passion for herbalism and organic farming. She holds a BA in Journalism and French and has professional background in digital media and strategic planning.

In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nnenna created the mobile wellness boutique, Bru Apothecary. Bro Apothecary is an intuitive and communal space for reclaiming wholeness – mind, body, and spirit. Since launching, Nnenna has helped hundreds of folx across the country improve their health and increase their connection to plant medicine.

Nnenna brings her passion for health, healing, and storytelling to this leadership role with the Buffalo Food Equity Network and we are so excited to have her on our team!

Click here to learn more about the Buffalo Food Equity Network.

WNY Food Stories Project Update

Since 2020, a team of Buffalo Food Equity Network members have led the Western New York (WNY) Food Stories Project to engage community storytellers in sharing their perspectives about food and land issues in Western New York.

Our project centers Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander storytellers to create stories and tools for community transformation and liberation. The first group of storytellers were engaged virtually due to the pandemic, and with support from Nexus Community Partners and the W.I.N. Initiative, a video was produced with highlights from their stories.

You can watch our 2020 video and learn more about the WNY Food Stories Project here.

Sherman Webb of the W.I.N. Initiative recording a video interview.

This summer, we collected a second group of stories at Buffalo’s 2022 Juneteenth Festival as a participant in the Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion. Approximately twenty festival attendees shared their food stories at a video booth created in collaboration with the W.I.N. Initiative. Now, we are working to create a new video with this fresh batch of stories.

In the coming months, we are looking forward to working with Buffalo Food Equity Network members to find ways to lift up these stories to facilitate change in the WNY food system. Our efforts are grounded in the belief that radical transformation in systems and structures is necessary for communities most impacted by food systems injustices to thrive.