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Quenching the food desert on Buffalo's East Side

Posted: 5:00 PM, Sep 18, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-18 22:25:05Z

For some getting to the grocery store is an errand on their way back from work, for others, it’s a whole day affair.

“I take The 20 and the 12 to get to Tops,” Regina Givens of Buffalo's East Side, said.

It takes Givens about an hour to to get to the Tops on Jefferson Street and an hour to get back home. It’s not a chore she has to do, but a day long activity. She only goes a few times a month because it's so hard to get there.

“I come over here once a month or twice a month depending on if I can get my daughter to drive me,” Givens said.

Buffalo’s East Side is considered a food desert. That means its difficult for neighbors to get healthy and affordable food.

There are markets near where Givens lives, but they don't have a large variety of products.

“Well we do have a market over there but it don’t carry the foods that I like."

That’s why Givens travels all the way to tops for her groceries.

“Oh yea, yea definitely cause they got all the good names brand. I like quality,” she said.

There's an organization that is trying to solve this issue, though. It's called the Healthy Corner Store initiative.

“We would like these stores, that are imbedded in the community to be synonymous with a place where you can get healthy food,” Rita Hubbard-Robinson, who is the CEO at Neu Water and works for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative, said.

The program provides free refrigerators to corner store owners on Buffalo's East Side who are willing to stock it with produce. The goal is to make affordable healthy food more available.

“Make a healthy meal, believe it or not, just by going to the corner store,” Hubbard-Robinson said.

She also said that part of the issue is that large grocery stores chpose its locations based on economic factors. That's why high poverty areas are often food deserts. Grocery stores want to be in a place where there is more money.

“They look at the economic base of the neighborhood,” she said.

Plus, the initiative acts as a way to show neighbors how to make an affordable meal that is also healthy.

“(To show people) what you can do with 5 bucks 10 bucks,” she said.

Ahmed Saleh owns Mandela Market on East Ferry and has had one of the organizations refrigerators for seven months.

“Number one seller is apple and banana. We sell a lot of bananas.”

There are seven locations across Buffalo with plans for at least six more for the near future.

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