Category Archives: News

The Idea That A (urban) Planner Is A Genius With Grand Ideas Is Bogus

Dr Samina Raja plans cities, towns, and regions to promote health and food equity. An award-winning professor and founder of a globally recognized Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities laboratory, operating from the University of Buffalo, she and her team conduct research on how to develop equitable, sustainable, and healthy cities. Her research has been used to advise local and national governments within and outside the US, and international organizations like the UN’s FAO. In a freewheeling interview with Masood Hussain, she offers her ideas about Kashmir of her imagination.

Andrew Galarneau: Grassroots efforts help water seeds of food security on East Side

Andrew Galarneau: Grassroots efforts help water seeds of food security on East Side

June 5, 2022 | Buffalo News, The: Web Edition Articles (NY)

 | Section: Local

Samina Raja, an internationally known University at Buffalo expert on building sustainable food systems and healthy communities, has spent more than 20 years studying how to help feed people living in neighborhoods without groceries, concentrating on Buffalo’s East Side.

The solution, in her estimation, is a classic case of something being simple, but not easy.

“The city’s Black neighborhoods need sustained structural investments, not fly-in, fly-out charity,” she and other UB Food Lab researchers said in an op-ed published at

“We are unlikely to remedy food inequities” without a greater understanding of what causes poor food environments, says Samina Raja, associate dean for research and inclusive excellence, and principal investigator of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo.

Allison DeHonney is shown making a food delivery in August 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Buffalo News file photo

What do people need to know before they can transform municipal food policies?

New research by UB Food Lab member Carol E Ramos-Gerena in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development 



Food policies should be informed by those who they intend to serve, but policy-making processes remain exclusive to privileged voices, knowledge, and experiences. This article bridges food and policy scholarship with the critical literacy work of Paulo Freire to answer: how do we understand literacies tied to food policy? What does (or, what could) it mean to be food policy literate? In a new JAFSCD article, Carol E. Ramos-Gerena proposes five principles for conceptualizing critical food policy literacy that support food system transformations. 


The paper suggests that efforts to promote critical food policy literacy must facilitate communities to (a) “read the world,” (b) “read the word,” (c) be critically aware of food policy processes and systems, (d) learn contextually and through authentic practice, and (e) enable people to negotiate and transform the world (their context) collectively. 


Possessing knowledge on engaging with food policy processes is not commensurate with actual engagement. Thus, structural barriers to community participation must also be addressed. Food system planners and educators, particularly at the municipal level, should support locally-based citizen food organizations to engage in food policy. This support must go beyond assessing communities’ food policy literacy. Instead, it must intend to bridge the gap to ensure critical readiness for food policy engagement. 

For questions and suggestions, contact us at

Latest Podcast | Food equity in cities with Leslie Knox, Rose Luciano, and Samina Raja | Connections with Evan Dawson

How can Rochester rebuild its food infrastructure to make the system more equitable? Cities around the country are asking this question. The answers often include community gardens, urban farms, fresh food cooperatives, and more.

University at Buffalo urban planning professor, Samina Raja, will be in Rochester next week to discuss the issue as part of the Reshaping Rochester series. The podcast preview her talk on food equity by design.

Food Lab team member to speak at Climate Solutions Summit

UB Food Lab team member Nathaniel Mich will be speaking on a panel at the Climate Solutions Summit with a focus on the Genesee-Finger Lakes region. The Summit will focus on climate solutions, and will build skills in climate action, advocacy, organizing and leadership. The Summit will feature regional projects/programs/initiatives, barriers and challenges to achieving short and long-term progress, co-benefits, including workforce dev, and opportunities for advocacy and public engagement. At the summit, Nathaniel Mich will share his perspective on “the role of planning and policy in building equitable, healthful and sustainable food systems and healthy communities.”  The panel will be held on April 23, 2022 at 10:30 am via Zoom.

Attendees must register here. 

Making Food Work Visible on International Women’s Day

The world would be better off if there was no need for International Women’s Day. Inequity tied to structural factors fuels gender-related disparities in all walks of life (including in the world of research where our lab of researchers of women of color is a rarity). Consider the following examples from the world of food systems. Women farmworkers execute the bulk of manual work — such as weeding and harvesting — in fields but do not accrue commensurate financial benefits from the sale of products. Small-scale farm households headed by women earn 30% less, on average, than farm households headed by men. In India, women comprise 42% of the agricultural workforce but own only 2% of the land. In the US, half of the graduates of culinary schools are women, yet fewer than 20% are chefs. A greater proportion of women are likely to be farmworkers or food service workers than owners of farms or food businesses, and, therefore, have limited power and material resources within the food system. Within homes, women’s food-related work (of buying and preparing food, and feeding people) remains invisible. The examples are one too many.
We hope that our readers go beyond celebrating the individual successes of women to paying attention to structural questions. Why do gendered disparities continue to exist (in the food system)? Why is there a glass ceiling in the first place? What structural and policy changes are needed at all levels of governance to eliminate gender-related disparities, especially for women from marginalized groups? What would it take for city governments across the United States to conduct an audit of their policies, programs, and budgets to discern if municipal work is truly supporting women in their jurisdictions? Sure, celebrate International Women’s Day — but also act to eliminate gender-related inequities in the food system
Authors: UB Food Lab [Women of Color] Researchers including Insha Akram, Carol E Ramos Gerena, Lorna Georges, Rachel Grandits, Shireen Guru, Samina Raja, Rose Thomas, and Atqa Qadri.
Notes.1. Data sources: Available upon request.2. Photo: Women researchers of the UB Food Lab (Yes, our skills at research don’t necessarily translate well to making a fist).

Who’s behind the research?

Food and health inequities are complex problems that cannot be addressed by a single discipline or a single individual. Our action research is made possible because of the collaborative intellect, energy, and leadership of seasoned and early career researchers from a host of disciplines. Today we introduce you to some of the lab crew students and fellows working! 

Our spring 2022 team includes William Gonzales (history, undergraduate) , Lorna Gorges (environmental design, undergraduate student),Rachel Grandits (sustainability, graduate student), Shireen Guru (research fellow), Eric Hughes (geographic information science, graduate student), Zachary Korosh (urban planning, graduate student), Nathaniel Mich (urban planning, graduate student), Carol Ramos Gerena (urban planning, doctoral student), Rose Thomas (public health, graduate student), Atqa Qadri (artificial intelligence, graduate student). Students in the picture are joined by professors Drs. Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah (Co-Principal Investigator) and Samina Raja (Principal Investigator) who guide the research with other faculty and community partners (not in the photo). 

Seeding East Buffalo Fellowship Application

Residents in East Buffalo have an exciting opportunity to join the Seeding East Buffalo Fellowship Program! Selected fellows will train with an experienced East Buffalo grower to learn how to grow their own food. Fellows will also receive a $350 grant award for growing supplies including soil, seedlings, and materials. By the end of the program, fellows will have the knowledge they need to grow food at home, to help their neighbors with gardening, and to advocate for a better East Buffalo!

DEADLINE The deadline to apply is April 18, 5:00 PM EST and fellowship winners will be announced in May, 2022.

WHEN WILL THE PROGRAM START AND WHAT WILL FELLOWS DO? The Seeding East Buffalo program will begin in May 2022. Fellows will learn about a variety of topics with experienced growers and community leaders. Fellows will learn about Black farmers/grower’s relationship to land, agriculture and food systems, and agriculture practices for sustainable soils, and the local growing season. Fellows will receive hands-on training focused on growing food from seeds and seedlings, seed saving, organic pesticide management, and harvesting. Fellows will also have the opportunity to learn how to shape policy to better serve communities. Fellows will train weekly on a farm in East Buffalo during the 2022 growing season (additionally, a welcome workshop and a graduation celebration will be held at an off-farm site). Most activity will happen on the weekends.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and reside in one of these Buffalo neighborhoods: Masten Park, Fruit Belt, Pratt-Willert, Broadway Fillmore, MLK Park, Delavan Grider, Kensington-Bailey. No gardening experience is required!

WHO IS BEHIND THE PROGRAM? The fellowship program is supported by a coalition of community leaders and researchers as part of the Growing Food Policy from the Ground Up Project (GFPGU). The urban farmers leading the training are from Urban Fruits & Veggies (UFV). UFV is proud of the high quality of the produce they provide to the community. Only the best seeds, soil and organic fertilizers are used when planting healthy crops. ​Their management team are certified in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and have a focus on food safety and providing quality products grown with the best non-treated seeds, quality soil and no chemical pesticides! UFV is certified as a Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE). Read about UFV at: For more information, contact Urban Fruits & Veggies, CEO, Allison DeHonney by email at or by phone at 716-829-3782.

Partners behind this effort include Appetite for Change, Food for the Spirit/Buffalo Food Equity Network, Freedom Gardens, Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Avenue Project, University at Buffalo Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, University of Minnesota, and Urban Fruits & Veggies LLC. Funding for this effort is made possible in part by the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR). You can read more about the overall effort at:

Please begin your application!

Food Lab researchers release major U.N. report on food systems planning

Researchers from the University at Buffalo Food Lab were the driving force behind the publication today of a major report that details strategies local governments in low- and middle-income countries can use to create more innovative and equitable community food systems.

The 164-page report — titled “Local government planning for community food systems” — was published in early February 2021 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations agency that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

Cover of a major report published by the United Nations in February that was written by UB researchers.

“To my knowledge, this is one of the earliest documents outlining how local governments can take action to create innovative and equitable food systems in low- and middle-income countries,” said Samina Raja, PhD, director of the UB Food Lab, who shepherded the initiative.

The report was co-produced by researchers and community partners in the case study countries, along with authors Raja, Erin Sweeney, Yeeli Mui and Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity and the Food Lab. It includes contributions from 10 students and six community partners from Ghana, Jamaica, and India.

Sweeney coordinated the work in Odisha (India), while Mui led in Kerala, India, and Frimpong Boamah in Ghana. Mui was a postdoc at UB when the project started and is now an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

UB researchers were the driving force behind this report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

A food system is the rich and complex web through which a community gets its food.

Despite major developments, local governments in low- and middle-income countries continue to face significant challenges in integrating food security, nutrition and sustainable food systems in their agenda, FAO directors Anna Lartey and Vimlendra Sharan note in the foreword to the report.

“This publication invites us to rethink food systems and supply chains through the lens of a ‘community,’ as a reminder that people and their everyday practices and relationships with food are central to the design of these processes,” they write.

The report comprises six sections featuring contributions from UB and other global food systems researchers. Topics covered include describing the many ways in which local governments influence a community’s food system, an overview of the field of food systems planning, examples of local government policies from across the globe, and case studies from a number of low- and middle-income countries where food systems present an opportunity for equitable innovation.

“In its conclusion, the report reinforces the critical role of community food systems for broader social transformation in cities and regions,” says Raja, who also serves as co-director of UB’s Community for Global Health Equity.

The report is unique in that it is centered around the experiences of smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries. These farmers are responsible for growing food for the world and yet they are often the most food insecure, Raja points out.

“It is with this premise that we went about this work,” she says, adding that the team interviewed smallholder farmers in Ghana, India and Jamaica. “It became certain that it is impossible to prepare plans and policies without understanding the successes, challenges and adaptations made by smallholder farmers to do their job and survive. They feed the world, they fight climate change, they protect our ecologies — smallholder farmers are truly on the ‘frontline.’”

Raja says local governments have the ability and a responsibility to collaborate with stakeholders to harness and amplify the opportunities available within their jurisdiction to develop more innovative and equitable community food systems.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to food systems planning,” she says. “Each community’s opportunities and challenges are unique. Building community trust, designing inclusive planning processes, and conducting contextually scoped community food system assessments that center smallholder farmers’ experiences are key to planning, strengthening, and leveraging food systems for community well-being in low- and middle-income countries.”

The report was the result of a collaboration between FAO and UB, which have partnered to build the capacity of local governments to engage in food systems planning. UB began work with partners at FAO in 2016 with an expert summit focused on drawing attention to food in the New Urban Agenda, an initiative of the U.N. that aims for a better quality of life in the urbanizing world.

With support from FAO, researchers at the UB Food Lab are conducting transdisciplinary research in Ghana, India and Jamaica to document opportunities and challenges in planning for food systems, especially from the perspective of smallholder farmers.

“UB’s Community for Global Health Equity, which supports UB Food Lab’s global work, is committed to supporting those who most influence global food equity – leaders, organizations and policymakers who can affect systemic change,” said Venu Govindaraju, PhD, UB vice president for research and economic development.

“The FAO-UB partnership accelerates our faculty’s ability to translate their research in the domain of community food systems into policy and action,” Govindaraju added.

Buffalo Resource Alert: COVID-19

From Buffalo Food Equity  Network + Soul Fire Farm, Announced March 20, 2020

Ask a Sista Farmer
Are you ready to grow your own food and medicine for self-reliance and community resilience? Every Friday, experienced Black womxn* farmers answer your call-in questions about gardening, livestock, agroforestry, plant medicine, and food preservation. 

Fridays, 4:00-4:40 Eastern**
On Zoom @ or 646-876-9923 Meeting ID: 803 350 514
On Facebook Live @
Event Page:

Rotating Hosts
Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm
Germaine Jenkins, Fresh Future Farm
Raven A. Blake, Love Fed New Haven
Keisha Cameron, High Hog Farm

This show centers the voices of Black, Indigenous, People-of-Color, Queer, Trans*, Disabled, Immigrant, and Poor communities. Everyone is welcome to listen, but please make space for centered folks to speak. Thank you. 

To free ourselves we must feed ourselves!
*Sista and womxn includes trans* and nonbinary folks
**March 27, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1 and we will see what’s needed after that!
***Event is FREE but please consider donating to a BIPOC farmer near you as an act of solidarity