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Gillibrand requests more federal funding for WNY's food deserts

Buffalo Police Department officers, vehicles and yellow tape appear outside the Tops Market.
Tom Dinki
Buffalo Police Department officers stand outside the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue May 14, 2022, several hours after a white gunman shot 13 mostly Black victims in what authorities have called a hate crime.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was in Buffalo Monday, calling for action to address the issue of food insecurity in the East Side neighborhood now affected by the closing of the Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue.

Gillibrand said she is pushing for robust federal funding for the USDA's Health Food Financing Initiative and for FEMA's Emergency Food and Shelter Program to help build infrastructure needed to put an end to hunger in the state.

The senator noted that some 95,000 residents in Buffalo and Erie County live in USDA-characterized "food deserts," including areas of the poverty-dominated East Side, where healthy food access is limited and food insecurity is high.

Gillibrand was joined in her call by other local elected officials, and representatives of the Resource Council of Western New York and FeedMore Western New York.

"Buffalo's East Side has historically been considered a food desert for decades before the Jefferson Tops opened for business," said Common Council President Darius Pridgen. "While the Jefferson Avenue Tops has provided a much needed service to Buffalo's East Side communities, food insecurity has remained a persistent problem. With Tops being temporary closed, residents who have relieved on this store are now struggling to have their basic needs met. No community should have a single point of failure when it comes to the availability of food and medicine."  

Erie County Legislator Howard Johnson noted that more than 45% of people live below the poverty line in Buffalo and Erie County, and more than 12% of Erie County is food insecure.

The Jefferson Avenue Tops has been closed since the May 14th shooting that killed 10 people and injured three others.