*Author’s Note: This article reflects the thoughts and grievances we shared at a Sustainable Agriculture team meeting last week after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Following this conversation, another mass shooting occurred in Uvalde, Texas.
Our hearts are heavy with the news of the mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14th. The Sustainable Agriculture team sat down last week to honor the lives lost that day and to reiterate the interconnectedness of food access work and racial justice. This targeted attack occurred in a grocery store established by and for the Black community of Buffalo’s East Side, an area experiencing food apartheid as a result of ongoing discriminatory planning and disinvestment. Access to food has historically been weaponized against People of Color in our country but it also serves as a powerful tool for achieving justice.
As we work to supply our community with fresh food, we want to honor the work of the Buffalo residents, many of whom face the same food access challenges that we face in Appalachia. Residents on the East Side of Buffalo fought for nearly a decade to get a full service grocery store, called Tops, built in 2003. After years of rallying and signing petitions, members of the community also worked to physically build the market. A local historian and pastor spoke to NPR, “To have our people working on that very site, it gave a wholesomeness to our community, it gave a sense of value, a sense of worth, because we were the ones to put the bricks down, the mortar down.” There hadn’t been a market in that area since the 1960s. And it became “the village watering hole,” according to one resident.
The origin story of Tops and its important role in the community resonates with our programs’ experience remediating food insecurity in southeast Ohio. Whether it’s supporting rural retail stores in low food access areas, putting fruits and vegetables into the hands of patients who are managing chronic illnesses, or building a local food hub, we share in the struggle to keep our people nourished.
We want to pay homage to the grassroots efforts in Buffalo to secure their human right to food. In order to do that, we must recognize the overtly racist motivation behind the terrorist attack on a Black community and stand against white supremacy in every form.
Please read the media advisory published by the Buffalo Food Equity Network and consider investing in Black-led organizations working to end food apartheid and violence in Buffalo.