Throughout the year, sabres.com will feature a local cause dedicated to making Western New York a “greener” place, and showing fans in the area how to incorporate conservation in their daily lives.
Take a look at this week’s profile on the Massachusetts Avenue Project
Are you living in a food desert?
Many residents of the city of Buffalo are living in areas of vacant land without real access to supermarkets and grocery stores, and don’t even know they are living in a food desert.
To address these issues, a local block club rose up to create awareness and to increase the opportunities for the youth living there.
Not long after, this small club evolved into a full-blown organization dedicated towards the education and implementation of those goals locally. The Massachusetts Avenue Project works to remediate vacant land in the city for gardening to reduce the impact of the food desert.
“Within the last 10 years we really honed in on a mission to impact the food system and address the problem of food access within our city,” Creative Director Erin Sharkey said. “There are many neighborhoods in the city that are designated as food deserts and lack availability to fresh food, and we need to change that.”
The first steps included creating a mobile market to help residents living in food deserts to overcome that obstacle. To start, the organization built its own urban farm on what formally were seven vacant lots in the Massachusetts Avenue area.
“Our mobile market is basically a mobile grocery store truck that carries fresh produce from local farmers and our own city-grown food to neighborhoods that lack a grocery store,” Sharkey said. “We were able to grow 4,000 pounds of food last year and feed a ton of people who needed it.”
The Massachusetts Avenue Project also relies on the youth in our city’s neighborhoods to implement its ideals.
Employing around 50 teenagers a year, the organization seeks to educate adolescents 14-18 years of age how to grow healthy food, how to cook healthy recipes with the food they’ve grown, and the importance of eating healthy.
“We have amazing teenagers in our program that just honor us by working for us,” Sharkey said. “They become educated and then become educators themselves to their peers.”
Targeting young people is something that not only helps the state of the neighborhood, but also works at creating a healthier city.
“Young people impact their families in many ways,” Sharkey said. “By asking their mom to eat more vegetables, or going to the store with their family to pick out healthier options, these young people are becoming agents of change.”
For those residents living on the West Side, the response to this initiative has been positive.
“This is our eighth growing season, and we have found things to be very easy,” Sharkey said. “People are excited about gardens and the great use of the land.”
However, building urban gardens on what used to be vacant land doesn’t come without its fair share of problems.
“There have been challenges in growing food in the city with things such as soil quality and toxicity issues,” Sharkey said. “Pests are also a problem, but these issues can be resolved if you understand the proper measures to take.”
To help residents better understand their ideals and to launch their next growing season, MAP will be holding a volunteer day on May 1st at 10 a.m. where residents can tour the farm and build compost bins.
MAP is also holding Flapjacks for the Farm, a fundraiser that will be located at the Trinity Episcopal Church at 371 Delaware Avenue on Saturday, March 27. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12, and can be purchased on the organization’s website at www.mass-ave.org or by calling (716)882-5327 ext. 4. Servings will be held at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and noon.
For healthy and easy tips for going green at home, or to become a Green Team member, click here.