The Buffalo Neighborhood Food Project
Project Goals In recent years Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo (GGB) has seen a growing interest from residents and school communities in starting food producing community gardens, as well as a significant increase in requests for training and education. The number of community gardens supported by GGB increased by 25% in 2011 and 13% in 2012. As the only organization that facilitates and supports community gardens in Buffalo, the demand for GGB's services and expertise continues to increase. Since 2003, the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) has worked to build the foundation of a community food system through its work with low-income residents and youth, mainly on Buffalo's West Side. MAP's success in training youth, increasing access to nutritious, affordable food, and building relationships with residents, farmers and schools has led to opportunities for expanding this work in a more comprehensive way to reach a larger constituency of Buffalo's low-income communities. The Buffalo Neighborhood Food Project is a new project that builds on past successes, complimentary roles, and the partnership of GGB and MAP. This project has four main goals: 1) To increase the self-reliance of our community in providing for our own food needs 2) To meet the food needs of low income youth and families in Buffalo 3) To advocate for policy in support of food system development 4) To create a comprehensive and replicable school garden program connecting students to food More specifically, we will focus on the following objectives while working to meet these goals: Objective #1: Increase the capacity and sustainability of all (GGB) community gardens. Lead gardeners will be trained as trainers to share information, knowledge and resources with other gardeners. Additionally, at least five (5) community gardens will benefit from additional construction and plant materials, resources and trainings to increase food production. Objective #2: Provide members of up to 10 school communities the opportunity to experience the food system through a hands-on learning environment. A comprehensive school garden program that utilizes curriculum-based lessons and increases students' awareness of the strengths and challenges of the food system in their community will be piloted in 3-5 new school communities and 3-5 school communities with existing school garden programs. Objective #3: Improve access and consumption of nutritious food by creating a Community Kitchen program that will provide a structured resource for community members, including youth, to prepare nutritious meals and preserve garden produce. Community-led seasonal food preparation and preservation workshops will be held in the fall and spring. A youth-led cooking club will allow youth to learn new cooking skills and nutrition information, share diverse cultural recipes and build relationships. Objective #4: Provide new opportunities for youth enterprise expansion and food related income generation. MAP's youth enterprise program will expand with the development of a commercial scale aquaponics project, tripling the production of Buffalo's oldest urban farm. Fish and produce grown in this system will be distributed and sold through MAP's Mobile Market to low income communities, allowing youth to be leaders in meeting the community's food needs. Objective #5: Building on an established foundation of food system advocacy work, organize community members, including youth, and work with public and private stakeholders to influence food systems related policy through the creation of a City-County Food Policy Council. This work will include working with the City to develop management plan guidelines for newly drafted urban agriculture land use and zoning regulations. These goals and objectives relate to needs and opportunities identified by community residents including youth, community gardeners and public school stakeholders. Both GGB and MAP are grassroots organizations that have strong ties to the community and complementary expertise that will lead to greater project impacts.
Evaluation Methodology Increase in Food Self-Reliance Metric Unit of measurement Benchmark Data collection Community Garden Network (Objective #1) Scale of food production Number of new community gardens established 3-5 annually Site visits (annual), Staff reports Intensity of food production Increase in square foot dedicated to cultivation of food in existing and new community gardens 25% increase from baseline Site visits (annual), Staff reports Quantity of food harvested Increase in pounds of harvested crops in existing and new community gardens 10% increase from baseline Gardener survey (annual), Staff reports School Garden Network (Objective #2) Scale of food production Number of new school gardens 3-5 established Site visits (annual) Intensity of food production Square footage of food cultivated 10% increase from baseline Site visits (annual) Quantity of food production Pounds of harvested crops 10% increase from baseline School reports (annual); Staff reports (annual) Increase in self-reliant youth Number of students receiving training 5% increase from baseline School reports (annual); Staff reports (annual) MAP Urban Farm (Objective #4) Scale of food production Square foot dedicated to cultivation of food 75% increase of land and greenhouse capacity in production Site visits (annual) Quantity of food raised Pounds of harvested crops and fish Triple food pounds produced from baseline Staff reports (annual) Produce and fish sold Sales revenue ($) 75% increase from baseline by year 3 Sales reports, including EBT sales (annual) Increase in self-reliant residents Number of individuals trained at urban agriculture workshops 10% increase from baseline Training attendance and evaluations (annual) Meet Food Needs of Low-Income Youth and Families Metric Unit of measurement Benchmark Data collection Improve Access and Consumption of Nutritious Food (Objective #3) Increase in direct food access Youth and families served through Mobile Market and community kitchen program 1,500 residents have improved access to fresh, affordable food Staff reports, including pre and post customer surveys (annual) Provide New Opportunities for Youth Enterprise Expansion (Objective #4) Increase in income generation activities Youth employed through Growing Green Works 50 per year Attendance and payroll reports (annual) Educate and Build Capacity of Food Systems Stakeholders Metric Unit of measurement Benchmark Data collection Community-Based Education (Objective #s 1, 2 & 3) Increase in self-reliant residents Number of community gardeners trained 75 community members Staff reports (annual); workshop attendance reports Change in knowledge about food production; change in actual behavior related to growing, cooking, preservation, and eating 20 families and 35 youth will have increased knowledge of nutrition, meal planning and consumption of nutritious foods Survey of community members, community gardeners and youth (pre- and post test survey; annual) Increase in youth self-reliant (school gardeners) Number of youth trained at school gardens 5% increase Staff reports (annual) Satisfaction and change in knowledge about food; change in behavior related to growing, preservation, cooking and eating Statistically significant change before and after participation Survey of students (pre- and post test survey; annual) Development of Comprehensive and Systematic Responses Metric Unit of measurement Benchmark Data collection Build on Established Foundation of Food System Advocacy Work (Objective #5) The degree of engagement of community members and youth in the Green Code process, including the development of urban agriculture management plan guidelines Number of individuals engaged Management plan guidelines established Stakeholder interviews Document analysis of draft and adopted policies The degree to which the revised land use plan and zoning code facilitate urban agriculture in the City of Buffalo Permitted urban agriculture land uses included in adopted plan Adopted land use plan and zoning code supportive of urban agriculture Document analysis of draft and adopted policies The degree of engagement of community members and youth leaders in the creation of and representation on the Food Policy Council Number of individuals engaged Food Policy Council established Stakeholder interviews
The Buffalo Neighborhood Food Project is a collaborative effort of Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo (GGB) and the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP), neighborhood youth and low-income residents in Buffalo, New York, the nation's third poorest city. The project aims to increase food self-reliance of Buffalo residents, promote comprehensive responses to local food and nutrition issues, build networks and meet the food needs of low-income people through 4 synergistic strategies. These include building the production capacity and sustainability of community gardens, developing a comprehensive school garden program for Buffalo Public Schools, increasing food production and expanding a youth run enterprise through the expansion of a commercial scale aquaponics system at the Growing Green Urban Farm, establishing a Community Kitchen project and influencing municipal policy in support of urban agriculture and local food system development. The Buffalo Neighborhood Food Project is an opportunity to capitalize on GGB's citywide work with community residents and MAP's successful track record improving food security and working with youth, as well as current opportunities to scale-up food production efforts in Buffalo and impact public policy as it relates to urban food production.