Market to provide fresh foods in a federally recognized ‘food desert’
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced the completion of the Mandela Market's expansion project on the East Side of Buffalo. The $145,000 expansion, at 272 E. Ferry S., was supported by funding from the state's East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund and Buffalo Billion II initiative. It is designed to provide greater access to fresh fruit and vegetables for a neighborhood partially covered by a USDA-designated second standard food desert.
A press release stated, “Open 24 hours a day and accessible by bus routes, the market helps residents of the area lead a healthier lifestyle and improved quality of life.”
"Access to fresh, quality food is critical to the health and prosperity of all communities during these challenging times," Cuomo said. "New York state is proud to support projects like the expansion of the Mandela Market and the continuing revitalization of Buffalo's East Side. I congratulate Ahmed Saleh, who works hard every day to provide food to the neighborhood he lives in and loves."
"Lack of access to fresh food is an injustice," added Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. "We are proud to support the expansion of Mandela Market, which will put healthy food on the table for families in Buffalo's East Side. Thank you to Mandela Market founder Ahmed Saleh, who is helping lead the way to make our community even stronger."
Saleh, an African immigrant who worked his way through business school, established Mandela Market in 2007. The market's success led to an expansion in 2012 and a second location opened on Broadway Street in 2018. Saleh undertook the expansion at the east Ferry Street location so he could offer his customers healthier foods, such as fruits, vegetables and prepared food – an undertaking that required constructing an additional 1,500 square-feet of new space and purchasing new equipment.
Mandela Market received $130,000 from Empire State Development as part of the East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund.
Saleh said, "We are pleased the expansion of our market on East Ferry street is complete and ready to be enjoyed by residents of Buffalo's East Side. I thank New York state for supporting this opportunity to bring fresh produce, new food options and additional jobs to a neighborhood in need of convenient, affordable and nutritious meal options."
In March 2019, Cuomo announced the $50 million East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, an initiative to spark revitalization of Buffalo's East Side through investments in the four main north-south commercial corridors: Michigan, Jefferson, Fillmore and Bailey avenues. Funding is helping revive traditional main streets and commercial corridors through the preservation of historic buildings, funding of capital improvements in neighborhood assets, expansion of commercial opportunities, improvements to infrastructure, as well as the promotion of mixed-use private investment in these neighborhoods. The funding is designed to empower community residents to improve their businesses and neighborhoods, making it a ground-up revitalization effort led by and directly benefiting the community.
Mandela Market was one of the nine projects listed as part of a total $7.4 million allocation in direct project assistance, a list compiled by ESD in conjunction with the City of Buffalo through public stakeholder meetings and listening sessions with business owners and neighborhood residents. Read more about Buffalo's East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund here.
The fund complements previous investments on the East Side, including $10 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative and $5 million for the Buffalo Central Terminal, for a total of $65 million in investments since 2017.
ESD Acting Commissioner and President and CEO-Designate Eric Gertler said, "Healthier food options are now easier to find on Buffalo's East Side, thanks to the expansion of Mandela Market, a family-owned business that has made a commitment to growing here. Congratulations on the completion of this project, which is just one example of Gov. Cuomo's efforts to ensure that every Buffalo community shares in the city's economic recovery."
State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "All New Yorkers deserve access to fresh foods, regardless of ZIP code or socioeconomic status, yet food deserts persist in underserved communities statewide. With so many people struggling during the pandemic, the expansion of Mandela's Market could not come at a more critical time. It will serve as a new resource for accessible, nutritional food options, which will in turn help foster healthier families across our entire city."
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "Ahmed Saleh's Mandela Market is literally an oasis in the ‘food desert’ on Buffalo's East Side. This $145,000 expansion, thanks to the state's East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund and Buffalo Billion II, will help Saleh grow his mission to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy food options to people who live and work on Buffalo's East Side."