Grant supports food equity & access in Buffalo’s underserved communities
Congressman Brian Higgins announced a federal grant totaling $365,535 awarded to the Massachusetts Avenue Project and Grassroots Gardens of Western New York. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is awarded through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Community Food Projects Grant program. It will support the Buffalo Food Justice Project, which aims to address food equity and access in underserved communities.
“Access to fresh, healthy food is a necessity, not a luxury,” Higgins said. “Food insecurity has a significant impact on underserved youth, and far too many families in Western New York are facing this challenge. Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will expand access to healthy, homegrown food, and address issues of equity in our local food system. Thanks to strong partnerships between the Massachusetts Avenue Project, Grassroots Gardens of Western New York, and the community, we are once again making critical investments in basic needs that will contribute to a better future for Western New York families.”
Grassroots Gardens WNY Executive Director Jeanette Koncikowski said, "Fifty percent of the gardens growing in our network are now on the east side of Buffalo. This funding will help us invest more resources in the gardens, including hiring seasonal staff. It will also help us continue our work partnering with MAP on youth education and empowerment. Additionally, it will support the community leaders who are co-creating policy recommendations with us on vacant lot reuse to share with our municipal partners."
Higgins’ team said, “This year, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is investing $4.7 million in community food projects across the United States. The goals of these projects are to meet the food needs of low-income communities through food distribution, community outreach to increase participation in federally assisted nutrition programs, and provide services that increase food access. The program is also aimed at increasing the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, and promoting comprehensive responses to local food access, farm and nutrition challenges. Overall, it is designed to meet the unique food and agricultural needs of communities and neighborhoods.
“The Massachusetts Avenue Project and Grassroots Gardens of Western New York will co-lead the Buffalo Food Justice Project. Working beside and building leadership among low-income youth, new Americans, entrepreneurs, community gardeners and local farmers, the project will increase food self-reliance among Buffalo residents and work to address the local food and nutrition needs of low-income communities, with specific attention toward increasing resources for Black and Indigenous people of color and other underserved communities.
“Focusing on building greater equity in the local food system, the Buffalo Food Justice Project will create public and private connections to improve food production capacity in Buffalo’s community gardens, establish youth and community-led food enterprises, and expand the urban agriculture workforce for low-income youth. It will also expand access to fresh, healthy food, and create new opportunities for urban and regional growers by expanding mobile markets. Ultimately, the project will work toward adopting municipal policies that secure land and provide better support for urban growers.”
The Massachusetts Avenue Project and Grassroots Gardens’ Buffalo Food Justice Project is one of just 22 projects receiving funding from the Community Food Projects Grant program.
Created in 1992 by neighborhood residents on Buffalo’s west side, the Massachusetts Avenue Project works to nurture the growth of a diverse, accessible and equitable food system, promote economic opportunities, and empower youth.
Grassroots Gardens of Western New York is a group of community gardeners and activists with the mission of sharing knowledge, power and resources to grow healthy food, heal systemic harm, and strengthen neighborhood connections through community gardens. It collaboratively cultivates more than 1 million square-feet of urban green space, with over 100 community gardens in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.