GGWNY COVID-19 Response
PROPOSAL FOR EMERGENCY SEED DISTRIBUTION AND INCREASED COMMUNITY GARDEN PRODUCTION TO ASSIST WITH FOOD SECURITY IN BUFFALO AND NIAGARA FALLS, NY DURING COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS AND ITS AFTERMATH.
As recently relayed by Dr. Samina Raja of the University at Buffalo Healthy Communities and Food Systems Lab, “The COVID 19 crisis is an unprecedented public health AND and an equity challenge for our community, the country and the globe. Though everyone will be impacted, some will be at greater risk, and some will have a harder time recovering from the health and non-health impacts of the crisis. Elders and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to the health impacts of the virus. Elders cannot as readily acquire food to meet their needs. People who work within the food service sector of our food system, and are not paid sick leave, cannot afford to miss work. Families with children who depend on school lunches are wondering what tomorrow holds. People with no cars cannot easily drive from place to place to stockpile foods. People with no/few grocery stores in their neighborhoods are at a significant disadvantage, especially when restrictions on mobility are necessary for one’s own health or the health of one’s community.”
With over 100 community gardens in the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Grassroots Gardens plays a critical role in meeting food security needs for many residents who live in neighborhoods that have experienced systemic disinvestment of grocery stores. The majority of our lead neighborhood gardeners are seniors. We also have 30 school gardens in our network that serve children from pre-k through 12th grade. Many of the people who garden with us do so to provide food and care for themselves and their families. We train over 1,500 people annually in how to garden. This public health emergency threatens food security for those that are already vulnerable in our food system. As part of a community-based emergency response to this crisis, Grassroots Gardens WNY is committed to the following actions:
Encourage home and community gardening via social media messaging. Gardening is a physical and mental health preventative measure. While all GGWNY early spring programming is now indefinitely postponed, we will increase our social media messaging to help residents learn how to grow safely at home if they have access to containers and soil. Stressing best practices in urban soil safety, our staff will be sharing videos and articles on how to grow indoors, how to use recyclable materials, how to grow from food scraps, etc. We recognize that the ability to grow food indoors means access to materials like clean growing mediums that can be expensive and difficult to access when in isolation. Therefore, we will also be taking the related following measures.
Conduct assessments with our lead gardeners, many of whom are strongly connected to their neighborhood communities through their block clubs, churches, and schools, to assess what the food security needs of the neighborhood are and their ideas for how organizations like GGWNY can assist with food security right now. We will support their needs with our own resources and the collective might of our community food systems partners. We are a community-led
organization, and now more than ever, it is essential that the voices of those most impacted in our community by this public health crisis remain amplified through direct action and advocacy.
Direct ship indoor seed starting materials (grow bags, soil, greenhouse trays, and fast-growing seeds as resources allow) to any Grassroots gardener (school gardener or community gardener) who wants to participate in Grassroots’ Seeds for Spring campaign. If the health crisis worsens throughout April, we will also look at the ability to ship raised bed kits and deliver soil to support growing at home. Typically, we rely on local vendors for bulk purchase seedlings for our community gardens, as home growing equipment for indoor seed starting has been limited. However, building up a stock of seedlings for transplanting into our community gardens this spring, should our distribution plans fail, will ensure food continues to be grown this spring and summer as families’ deal with the health and economic impact of COVID-19. Gardeners who have experience growing seedlings indoors and moving out to cold frames in April will be encouraged to grow as many as they can for contribution to the community gardens or to give to their neighbors. It is our hope to grow another 2,000 seedlings through this collective effort in addition to the orders we have placed with our vendors.
Develop health guidance for use of the community gardens during COVID-19. We will publish guidance relying on information from our local public health experts, Cornell Co-Op Extension, the CDC and USDA on how to safely maintain use of the community gardens this spring so that access to food grown in the gardens can continue.
How the community can help?
GGWNY Gardeners who wish to help grow seedlings should contact our office line at 716-783- 9653 or via email at and indicate their willingness to grow extra seedlings.
Local companies can assist by working with us to directly ship donated bagged seed starting mix, grow bags and seeds to our community gardeners OR offering discounts for our material purchase.
Donate today for the Seeds for Spring campaign and we’ll be sure your donation supports investment of more material goods and edible plants in the community gardens come late spring so more families can be fed.
Greenhouses or nurseries (home or commercial) that would like to participate in Seeds for Spring through direct seedling donation can coordinate with us as well by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Assuming it is safe to collect donations in later spring, we will arrange to do so and distribute among our network.