BUFFALO, N.Y. — Leaders, investors and scholars are looking at ways to end food inequity in not only Western New York, but also across the country.

That was on full display at the first American Food Equity Conference held in Buffalo on Wednesday. It was spurred by the May 14 mass shooting at the Tops grocery store on Jefferson Avenue, which exposed the food desert in East Buffalo.

During the session, scholars talked about what causes food deserts, especially the one in Buffalo. They say it comes about because of specific policies and practices, so experts say the term in itself is not an accurate description.

Conference founder Kevin Gaughan says that banking and financial institutes are interested in investing and giving capital to urban farms and co-ops in East Buffalo to help address community needs.

"It sometimes takes a tragedy like what happened on May 14 to refocus people's attention and see if Buffalo can lead the way in addressing this chronic inequity in food access," said Gaughan. "Maybe it's a small way of honoring those who lost their lives, just for the simple reason that they were seeking the sole outlet for fresh food."

Gaughan hopes to have a comprehensive follow-up to the conference that he says will work as a potential model for other cities to follow.