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Food access in Western New York subject of roundtable discussion

by jmaloni
Wed, Feb 22nd 2012 07:00 am
  • Date: Wednesday, Feb. 29
  • Time: 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Location: University at Buffalo South Campus, 100 Allen Hall

Submitted by the Junior League of Buffalo

At the Junior League of Buffalo, our community impact is focused on families at risk. It is from this focus area that all of our work grows. As an organization striving to improve everyday life, we have recently taken steps to increase our impact to the community and streamline our volunteer efforts.

Female heads of households, living in poverty, are the face of poverty in Western New York. Two-thirds of families living in poverty in Western New York are headed by a single female. Many of these women and their families face health, education and self-esteem obstacles. By working to improve their economic situation, we are sure to create opportunities for tremendous growth and to help reduce the possibility of generational poverty.

Food, like water, is a basic necessity and a human right. Food impacts and connects us all, but access, quality and availability differ depending on the community in which we live. How to feed ourselves and our families, where we our purchase our food, and how much food costs - these are questions we all ask ourselves. Within our current food system, communities face challenges that impact food access, public health and social well-being. As a community, we need to be aware of the food system in our community and how together we can empower ourselves and build a sustainable food system.

The Junior League of Buffalo looks to build awareness of food access as a basic need, inherently connected to the success of female heads of households as they support their families, ultimately striving to end the cycle of poverty.

Topics for the upcoming roundtable include:

  • Awareness of food system issues and access
  • Relationship to female heads of households, communities and their economic health
  • Define eating local; leading a healthy lifestyle
  • Importance of community empowerment and policies
  • Engagement opportunities for the community
  • Resources in the Western New York community for those impacted by the issue

Contributing panelists include:

  • Diane Picard, executive director, Massachusetts Avenue Project
  • Jessie Gouck, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities Buffalo
  • Susannah Barton, executive director, Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo

The Junior League of Buffalo is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and to improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.

Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to helping people create and sustain community gardens on vacant land in the City of Buffalo. The organization was started in 1992 by J. Milton Zeckhauser, a lifelong Buffalo resident and businessman who recognized the value community gardens would bring to Buffalo's neighborhoods. Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo supports nearly 70 community gardens on more than 100 previously vacant lots in the City of Buffalo by providing community gardeners with access to land, liability insurance, plant and material support, and educational and training opportunities. These community gardens beautify and strengthen neighborhoods, enable the productive reuse of vacant properties, and improve the overall quality of life for residents.

Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose primary goal is to implement healthy eating and active living policy - and environmental-change initiatives that can support healthier communities for children and families. Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities places special emphasis on reaching children who are at the highest risk for obesity on the basis of race/ethnicity, income and/or geographic location. Buffalo is one of only 50 communities across the country selected to receive this highly competitive award from RWJF.

The Massachusetts Avenue Project nurtures the growth of a diverse and equitable community food system to promote local economic opportunities, access to affordable and nutritious food, and social-change education. It was established in 2003 in response to growing issues of urban vacancy, youth unemployment and food insecurity. MAP founded Growing Green, an urban agriculture program that engages low-income youth in growing, distributing and marketing healthy food in Buffalo's food deserts and involving young people in community education, organizing and policy change. Since 2003, MAP has directly employed and trained more than 375 youth and impacted more than 15,000 individuals through program activities. Food is a great connector and an effective vehicle for promoting social and economic equity. Among MAP's greatest accomplishments is the commitment to involving youth where they live, with their individual talents, in multiple strategies toward solving issues around food access that impact them and their families in a very direct way.

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