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The Safe Roots program began at GGWNY in 2013-14 thanks to funding from the Patrick Lee Foundation and LUSH Cosmetics in partnership with Urban Roots Cooperative Garden Market and the International Institute of Buffalo. The program was launched to help our newest American neighbors who were resettling in Buffalo to learn about Buffalo's soil history, including the risk of lead poisoning by growing food in the ground. Funding helped to publish illustrative guidebooks in 7 different languages about how to grow food safely in Buffalo, including information about our community garden network and raised bed gardening. Workshops utilizing translators are also offered through partner agencies like Journey's End Refugee Network. 

In 2021-2024, in partnership with the University at Buffalo Center for Global Health Equity, the City of Buffalo, the WNY Children's Environmental Health Center, and Urban Roots, we are expanding the program in exciting ways. We have received a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant to learn whether mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, can quickly clean lead and other heavy metals from ground soil. University at Buffalo researchers will be conducting a field test on a vacant lot on Townsend Street that the City of Buffalo is leasing to GGWNY for the period of the study. The researchers will be taking soil from the lot that is assumed to have lead contamination (as many of Buffalo's vacant land does) and adding a mycelium substrate and growing spinach in the soil on top. The lot will be fully fenced and only UB researchers and GGWNY staff will be allowed on-site to prevent any risk to the public from accidentally harvesting what is growing on the test site. If the field tests work as well as the lab tests, we hope to find that lead can be quickly and naturally removed from the soil! The Greater East Side Field of Dreams Block Club has been advised of the project on the lot and is supportive of the study. This ground-breaking research could have global health implications. Watch this interview with Spectrum News to learn more from the scientists and GGWNY staff about the project!

Funding from this grant is also allowing us to update the Safe Roots guidebooks. You can download the English version here. We hope to have the guidebook available to download in 9 other languages: Spanish, Arabic, Somali, Bengali, Persian (Farsi/Darsi), Swahili, Karen, Burmese, and Nepali by late Fall. Copies of the guidebooks will also be distributed through our community partnerships.

In 2023 and 2024, we will launch a large public education campaign to make all city residents in Buffalo and Niagara Falls aware of legacy contamination in soil and how to safely grow in a city.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office at 716-783-9653 if you have any questions or concerns about the study on Townsend Street or would like to get more information about our workshops and guidebooks. Together, we grow SAFE and healthy communities.

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A few sample pages from the English Safe Roots guidebook. Click the button to download a copy of the guidebook.

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