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.

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.

Freedom Gardens Harvest Celebration

Register for a free gift at https://bit.ly/3lxNLJh.

Naima Penniman, Soul Fire Farm, featured speaker at First Annual Freedom Garden Harvest Celebration

The first annual Freedom Gardens Harvest Celebration featuring Naima Penniman, spoken word/hip hop artist and Program Director of Soul Fire Farm will be included in the 2020 Buffalo Food Sovereignty Week. Celebrate with us as we tell the story of our resilience, our self sufficiency, our self determination and our desire to thrive and not just survive the COVID virus. As gardeners we were successful in growing organic food in our own backyards! This is unprecedented! You are invited to sign into Zoom on Tuesday, October 13th at 7pm to meet our volunteers, sponsors, the gardeners and their families, hear the plans for next year, learn how to become a freedom gardener and share in our triumphs!

Register for your free event ticket(s) on Eventbrite.com. The first 20 to register on line will get a “gift”!

Where: Join Zoom meeting online https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85164056444

Meeting ID: 851 6405 6444

One tap mobile: +19294362866,.,85164056444# US (New York) or

Dial your your location: +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)

“We ‘grow’ to support ourselves, control our destinies, and provide for our families while building a healing community that is healthy and well.”

Email: yourfreedomgarden@gmail.com for more information or if you have problems accessing Zoom. You must download the Zoom app if you are new to Zoom.

Buffalo Freedom Gardens Partners: Soul Fire Farms, Food for the Spirit, Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN), Grassroots Gardens, CopperTown Block Club, Access to A-Free-Ka, Juneteenth Festival of Buffalo, NY, Seeding Resilience, Buffalo Love Your Block, CCE Erie County Master Gardener Program, WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund Buffalo, Fruition Seeds, Urban Fruits & Veggies, Feed Buffalo, Black Ink Press, and the African Heritage Food Co-op

Freedom Gardens Thank You

An open letter to the Buffalo BIPOC community,

All around the country community responses to the COVID-19 virus have been varied, most have been uplifting and inspiring and a few divisive and disturbing.  The virus has manifested in Buffalo like it has in other places, spreading in Black populations disproportionally thereby resulting in more cases and deaths. It has exposed and exploited the systematic conditions that arise when poverty and race are neglected and ignored. Our response to this crisis has been to target the underlaying causes that perpetuate the health disparities in our communities…the lack of healthy fresh nutritious food. Our health will improve when we have neighborhoods that prioritize health and wellbeing.   

This letter is a thank you to everyone who contributed to our marketing success and provided funding for Freedom Gardens.  For over a century Buffalo has been the epicenter of Black freedom movements created in response to challenging moments in history. An expansive coalition of community-based organizations announced the Buffalo Freedom Garden initiative to bring organic gardens that inspire resilience, independence and community building to residents in the zip code areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 virus. Our print campaign was launched last week with an ad and article in The Challenger News. The message that Freedom Gardens was our response to the COVID crisis was carried by influencers on social media, radio programs on POWER 96.5, and undergirded by a direct marketing campaign fueled by the power and influence of community-based organizations! Once the community began to take notice in less than five days over 334 households applied for 50 gardens!  I would like to thank all the families and individuals that filled out an application. Your outpouring of support is being used to expand the number of gardens we can establish in an attempt to meet the increased demand.   

Black owned media outlets, Citigroup, WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, Juneteenth Festival Agricultural Pavilion Committee, Food for the Spirit, Grassroots Gardens, Access To A-Free-Ka and others played a critical role in organizing, promoting, funding and providing leadership for this initiative.  Please join me in acknowledging our sponsors and supporters. Our best moments come when we unite as a community to do the work of the people! Together we rise! 

Sincerely,

Gail V Wells & Rebekah Williams

Freedom Gardens