The special issue was sponsored by Growing Food Connections, a national initiative that engages in research, education, and policy to strengthen community food systems.
The Food Lab is working in Kashmir, a naturally-resource rich region in South Asia. The lab team started work in partnership with the University at Kashmir with a pilot project on haakh (2016-2017), a green leafy vegetable akin to collard greens. Through interviews with small-scale growers, stakeholders, and residents, the team aims to gain an understanding of how land use change and planning decisions impact the production and consumption of haakh. Haakh was chosen for this pilot study as it is beloved by Kashmiris, is an affordable vegetable, and is only grown in the Kashmir region. The Haakh Project is made possible in part by a grant from the University at Buffalo Asian Studies Program.
Launched in 2017, Planning for Regenerative, Equitable Food Systems in Urbanizing Global Environments (Plan-REFUGE) aspires to understand and mitigate food inequities experienced by smallholder farmers in the Global South. Using a transdisciplinary approach, we investigate how small-holder farmers in the Global South adapt their daily living practices (DLPs) in the face of a number of challenges including globalization and climate change. Lessons from on-the-ground experiences are used to inform purposeful community development and planning strategies. The project ensures a Global South-to-Global South learning exchange as well as capacity-building of policy makers both locally and globally through publications and trainings. Plan-REFUGE is a collaborative effort that includes the Indian states of Kerala and Odisha; the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, and the city of Accra, Ghana. This work is supported by the University at Buffalo’s Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity.
Dealing with Disparities in Food Acquisition Among Refugees (DDFAR)
Dealing with Disparities in Food Acquisition Among Refugees (DDFAR) is a two-year pilot research project (2016-2018) that explores the influence of social, environmental, cultural and personal determinants on food acquisition practices among Americans from Burma living in Buffalo, New York. Working in partnership with a community advisory group (CAG), the research team is documenting the ways in which Americans from Burma access culturally acceptable foods, their perception of health risks, and how they are changing the food environment in the city of Buffalo. Funded in part by the University at Buffalo’s Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity (CGHE), DDFAR utilizes a transdisciplinary approach, engaging team members from diverse disciplines including urban and regional planning (Dr. Samina Raja and Alex Judelsohn), public health (Dr. Heather Orom), social work (Dr. Isok Kim), and medicine (Dr. Roberto Diaz del Carpio). CAG members include representatives of the Burmese and Karen communities as well as organizations that serve refugee communities.
Members of the Community Advisory Group:
- Melissa Fratello (Grassroots Gardens of Western New York)
- Daniel Lawd (Karen Society of Buffalo)
- Chan Myae Thu (community health worker)
- Jeff Oglieve (Journey’s End Refugee Services)
- Steven Sanyu (Burmese Community Services, Inc.)
- Win Min Thant (Buffalo State Community Academic Center)
- Zaw Win (WASH Project)
Ongoing contributor and volunteer, Rosie DeVito, MPH graduate.
Immigrants And Food: Role Of Ethnic Markets In Transforming And Leveraging Food Systems
The Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) is a non-profit organization working to create opportunities and success through community building, economic development, and education. Since its creation in 2011, WEDI’s West Side Bazaar has provided a hands-on food entrepreneurship program empowering low-income residents, particularly from Buffalo’s culturally rich yet economically distressed West Side community, to start and expand businesses serving inexpensive, culturally relevant cuisines. Along with a small business incubator, the West Side Bazaar is also a startup accelerator, a community meeting space, and a public market. With a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, WEDI is in the process of expanding this operation into a 10,000-square-foot space, featuring a larger shared commercial kitchen kitchen, increased storage, and retail spaces for both service-oriented, product, and apparel companies. This project will empower WEDI’s clients to self-sustainability in business and food. The Food Lab is evaluating the West Side Bazaar’s expansion to help understand the role immigrant food vendors play in Buffalo’s food supply chain, with particular regard to procurement from the city-regional supply chain. Data is collected through semi-structured interviews with vendors in the West Side Bazaar, and results will be shared back with WEDI annually over the course of the project.
The UB Food Lab team conducts research that informs policy actions for creating healthier communities. The team views policy structures have a key role in enabling (or, limiting) healthy lifestyles and health equity. To that end, the lab team partnered with the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities-Buffalo coalition, a group of public, civic, and private organizations, to conduct research on structural opportunities and barriers for healthy eating and active living in the city of Buffalo. Funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the lab team produced a series of policy briefs to inform the work of the coalition. See policy briefs below:
Commissioned as a technical report for a regional sustainability planning process known locally as One Region Forward, Growing Together is a sustainable food access and food justice report for the Buffalo-Erie metropolitan area of Western New York State. One Region Forward planning process was led by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) and funded by a grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Partnership for Sustainable Communities Initiative.
Through multi-year stakeholder engagement and research (2013-2014), the Food Lab and UBRI teams identified assets and opportunities within the region’s food system. Growing Together includes “Ideas for the future” that can be used to enhance viability of food production; improve access to nutritious, culturally acceptable, and affordable food; and create stronger linkages between food producers and eaters in the region. Research and ideas proposed in Growing Together are being implemented by public and civic actors in the region.
The UB Food Lab team has a long-standing award winning community action research partnership with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP), a local not-for-profit group that aims to build capacity of youth by engaging them in food systems transformation. The partnership, which began in 2002 with a graduate planning practicum taught by Dr. Raja on behalf of MAP, includes multiple research, education, advocacy, and policy activities. The UB Food Lab has documented the impact of MAP’s on the food policy landscape in the city, and worked with MAP to strengthen the food system. Read about the expansive work of this partnership here: https://journals.iupui.edu/index.php/muj/article/view/21471/20710
The UB Food Lab team conducts research on the impact of the physical (built) environment in enabling or constraining physical activity among youth. In partnership with the UB School of Medicine, the lab team has documented the ways in which neighborhood design impacts children’s physical activity as well as how the design features within parks impact children’s levels and choices of physical activity. This research uses both perceptual and objective data measured using surveys, accelerometers, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and Geographic Information systems (GIS). This research is made possible in part by the National Institute of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a grant from the University at Buffalo’s 3E Initiative.
The goal of this action research project was to evaluate the progress of the Buffalo Neighborhood Food Project, led by GGWNY and MAP, in improving access to food in the city of Buffalo. The BNFP project aimed to improve access to food by increasing the number of community and school-based gardens in the city, building capacity of residents to engage in urban agriculture, and implementing a fresh food mobile market. The UB Food Lab team conducted a survey of community gardeners as well as open-ended interviews with mobile market users to understand the ways in which BNFP efforts increased opportunities for growing, purchasing, and consuming good foods in underserved neighborhoods.
The design of the built environment – specifically, the design, diversity, and density of urban environments – are reported to be associated with levels of physical activity of the inhabitants. A small body of scholarship has examined the role of quality of work environments – such as medical campuses – on the physical activity rates of employees. In 2007, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the UB Food Lab initiated a two-phased (pre-post research design) study to evaluate the ways in which improvements to the built environment and infrastructure of a work campus might impact the physical activity of employees. The first phase and pre-test data collection was completed before the design and construction of Ellicott Street. The redesign and construction of Ellicott Street is now complete and there is now an opportunity to document the impact of the improvements made on the campus on the quality of work life of employees. Phase two evaluation of the project is occurring nearly 10 years after baseline data collection was completed.