UB alumna leads Buffalo Freedom Gardens.
By CHARLOTTE HSU Published July 13, 2022
Summer is here, and with the arrival of the growing season, an initiative called Buffalo Freedom Gardens has given dozens of residents of Buffalo’s East Side neighborhoods a free raised bed garden.
On a Saturday in June, volunteers including UB Food Lab members joined Freedom Gardens founder Gail V. Wells to make the last of this year’s deliveries.
The team packed cedar wood planters, each expected to last at least a decade, into a U-Haul truck, along with bags of soil. Freedom Gardens recipients also get seeds and vegetable seedlings, garden gloves, a bright green watering can, and instructions on caring for the plants.
Each garden is a thing of joy — and an act of liberation, says Wells, a UB alumna who remains connected to the university community.
She points out that food has long been central to movements for freedom: “For Black people who are descendants of kidnapped and enslaved Africans, the way we could secure our safety and our families and build an economy for ourselves was first based on us being able to feed ourselves,” she says.
The purpose of this planning studio was to create a community food systems plan for the West Side neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Students from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning worked on behalf of the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP), a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing urban neighborhoods and improving food security through urban farming and youth leadership development. The students conducted an extensive survey of food stores in the West Side that revealed challenges for residents to access fresh, nutritious foods. The final report made recommendations to strengthen the West Side’s community food system to meet four strategic objectives which include enhancing local food production through supportive land use planning, promoting economic development related to the food system, increasing access to transportation to food sources, and promoting youth development through food-based programming. MAP’s Growing Green program was integral in demonstrating the role of youth in urban farming projects. The report strove to demonstrate the ways in which planning can be used to address food insecurity and strengthen a community food system, and the power of urban neighborhood residents to work towards community revitalization and well-being.
Graduate students in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning PD 525 “Planning for Food Justice” course wrote the plan on behalf of the Buffalo City Council Community Gardens Task Force. The goal of the Queen City Gardens Plan is to foster and protect sustainable community-based garden projects throughout the City of Buffalo. The graduate student team researched the state of community gardens in the City of Buffalo, reviewed municipal policies on community gardens in other cities in the United States, and made recommendations on how best to create and sustain community gardens in the City of Buffalo. The Queen City Gardens plan aimed to provide the task force with information to “enhance the cultural, physical and social environment and provide means for stimulating interaction between community members through the creation and continuance of community gardens”. The plan outlines recommendations to enhance the City’s Comprehensive Land Use and Zoning Code that was in review at the time, and suggests a partnership between City Hall and the greater community to protect and enhance community gardening across the city.
The purpose of this planning studio was to develop materials that would encourage and educate children to walk and bicycle to school, and create a “Kids Corridor” plan. Graduate students in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning worked in collaboration with officials of the Town of Amherst, which had received a federal Safe Routes To School grant in conjunction with the Williamsville Central School District. The studio focused on strategies to make walking and biking to school safe and engaging K-8 students and parents in the Williamsville School District as active players in the plan development. The final report recommended the creation of a Town Youth Board subcommittee to oversee the plan and its ongoing development, as well as designating Kids Corridor zones around elementary and middle schools which would be facilitated by policy changes and physical improvements. In addition, the report recommended the distribution of maps of safe walking routes to all parents living within one mile of schools in the district. This project was awarded the 2010 Outstanding Student Project Award from the Western New York Section of the American Planning Association (WNY APA).
The GW Sustainability Collaborative’s annual symposium brings together policy makers, academics, and practitioners to identify current scientific findings and future research questions in the field of sustainability. This year’s conference will focus on the role of urban agriculture in the forthcoming 2018 Farm Bill. The symposium will take place on September 30th, 2016 from 9am to 5pm in the Jack Morton Auditorium on the George Washington University Campus.
The event is co-hosted by three organizations – AGree, Michigan State University, and the University of the District of Columbia. AGree’s mission is to drive positive change in the food and agriculture system by connecting and challenging leaders from diverse communities to build consensus, catalyze action, and elevate food and agriculture as a national priority. Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems is committed to research, education and outreach to develop regionally integrated, sustainable food systems. The University of the District of Columbia is the only public higher education institution in DC, and the only urban land-grant university in the nation with a College of Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences, as well as a College of Agriculture.
Featured speakers include Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9); Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service; Nicolas Jammet, CEO and co-founder of sweetgreen; Debra Eschemeyer, former AGree Advisor, Senior White House Policy Advisor for Nutrition, and Executive Director of Let’s Move!; A.G. Kawamura, AGree Advisor and former California Secretary of Agriculture; Tom Forester, Milan Pact Awards Coordinator; Malik Yakini, director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network; and many more.
Free and open to the public. Please RSVP here! Also livestreaming at www.foodinstitute.gwu.edu. Please share this event widely with your networks.
Questions? Please email Ariel Kagan, email@example.com
Alex is a Research Associate with the Food Lab. She leads the coordination of the lab’s global projects and serves as the Interim Coordinator of UB’s Communities of Excellence, Global Health Equity. Alex also supports global education projects. Most recently she traveled to India to assist with a studio course focused on sanitation and health equity. Alex is currently conducting research on the food and health experiences of the Burmese community in the City of Buffalo.
Prior to joining the Food Lab, Alex served as the Garden Coordinator for Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo. Currently, Alex is also the interim Coordinator for the Community for Global Health Equity.
Alex received her Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University at Buffalo where she focused her studies on the link between planning and public health.
Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bumjoon Kang holds a B.S. and M.S. in architecture (Seoul National University, Korea) and a Ph.D. in urban design and planning (University of Washington). Starting in Fall 2013, Dr. Kang joins UB’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning and the ‘Food Lab’. Prior to joining the faculty at the University at Buffalo, he was a research associate in the Urban Form Lab at the University of Washington and a planner/researcher at the Seoul Development Institute (Korea, currently the Seoul Institute).
Dr. Kang has research interests in the relationships between built environments and health behaviors and outcomes. His previous/ongoing research topics include physical activity, food environments, time-geography (continuous spatial exposure), spatial statistics, and GIScience (analysis of large spatial data). His recent work on identification of walking was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: “Walking Objectively Measured: Classifying Accelerometer Data with GPS and Travel Diaries.”
Dr. Kang can be reached at email@example.com
To see more of Dr. Kang’s work, see his webpage.
Erin is in her first year in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Buffalo. She earned her BA in Community Development from Allegheny College in 2010. Her work prior to joining the Food Lab was focused on rural community development through access to and education around local and affordable food in Northwestern Pennsylvania and Central Maine. She spent the last six years managing an inter-generational community garden, developing regional support for SNAP incentives at farmers markets, and integrating nutrition curriculum into after-school and gifted programs for youth. Her work in the Food Lab is primarily focused on the role of planning in international food systems through UB’s Community of Excellence for Global Health Equity (CGHE). She has lived and worked in Ecuador and Colombia which gives context for her global work with CGHE.