BUFFALO, N.Y. — The horrific mass shooting at Tops on Jefferson Avenue continues to leave that Buffalo neighborhood heartbroken.
It's also highlighted just how severe food inequity is in that neighborhood.
"What has happened here, May 14, shouldn't happen anywhere,” Rev. Mark Blue, president of the NAACP Buffalo Chapter, said. “And it only happened because there were not enough grocery stores in this area.”
Following the mass shooting, civic leader Kevin Gaughan says he researched the issue of food inequity in Buffalo and learned that Black leaders and citizens have been working to find a solution since the problem began.
"I thought that work and that effort deserved more attention," Gaughan said.
So Gaughan decided to hold a national conference to discuss solutions to food inequity.
"Coming to Buffalo will be America's leading scholars, experts, business people, educators in food inequity and, most important, we'll have those Black citizens, Black leaders, farmers and other residents of East Buffalo who understand this issue the best and have made great strides in finding the solutions," Gaughan said.
"If we're not healthy, we can't do anything,” said Allison DeHonney, CEO of Urban Fruits & Veggies LLC. “We can't go to work. We can't be there for our children. We can't contribute to our society in any meaningful way if you're not healthy. And a lot of that starts with our food.”
Gaughan says investors will also be invited to the conference. The conference will be held for one day.
"We're not going to solve the problem in that one day, but I'm hoping that by placing our East Buffalo Black leaders in a room with those who have the resources to make this happen, some good will come from that," Gaughan said.
"If we can get in front of more folks with resources and bring more resources and highlight the work we're doing here in Buffalo, we can create the systemic change necessary to make sure all Buffalonians, especially those here in East Buffalo, have a sustainable method for eating well and being healthier," said Alexander Wright, African Heritage Food Co-op founder.
The conference will be held Oct. 12. Gaughan hopes to have a comprehensive follow-up to the conference, what he calls a “Report to the Nation” from Buffalo. The report will work as a potential model for other cities to follow.