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Fruit Belt leaders call for investment in neighborhood food store

An artist rendering of the proposed African Heritage Food Co-op on Carlton Street.
Jay Moran
An artist rendering offers a look at plans for a Carlton Street location of the African Heritage Food Co-op.

The closing of the Jefferson Avenue Tops Market since the May 14 mass shooting that killed 10 people has exacerbated the longstanding problem of food insecurity on Buffalo's East Side. The situation has generated conversation on the issue and how to solve it.

"The solutions are already here," said Alexander Wright, co-founder of theAfrican Heritage Food Co-op Tuesday in front of 238 Carlton St. The historic location in Buffalo's Fruit Belt neighborhood is the prospective home for a flagship store for the Co-op.

"What the community wants is here. We have a building, we have the drive, we have the architects, we have the environmental studies, we have the renderings," said Wright.

What the plan lacks right now is funding. Wright estimates the renovation cost at $3 million.

Instead of just one moderately-sized grocery store on Buffalo's East Side, Wright argues each neighborhood would be better served by its own grocer that provides fresh foods and produce. He said the Fruit Belt, with its legacy of neighborhood and community, is an ideal location for a food store within walking distance of many residents.

"This is a beacon of self sufficiency," Wright said. "This is something that's going to keep itself going perpetually. These are the answers."

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Jay joined Buffalo Toronto Public Media in 2008 and has been local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" ever since. In June, 2022, he was named one of the co-hosts of WBFO's "Buffalo, What's Next."

A graduate of St. Mary's of the Lake School, St. Francis High School and Buffalo State College, Jay has worked most of his professional career in Buffalo. Outside of public media, he continues in longstanding roles as the public address announcer for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and as play-by-play voice of Canisius College basketball.