What You Should Know About Food Deserts

On May 14th, 2022, a violent shooter committed a racially motivated act of mass violence at a Tops Grocery store in the East Side of Buffalo that took the lives of 10 innocent people.

It wasn’t a coincidence that this shooting happened at this specific store location. The East Side is home to a large black community and is a food desert, meaning this store was a central hub for the community to shop.

The aftermath of this shooting resulted in many needed conversations about racism, the insidious nature of online echo chambers, and food deserts. While the Buffalo community came together, we are still healing. Below is information on food deserts, their impact, and how we can assist those within them.

What is a Food Desert?

Food deserts have their origins in racism- they are the result of segregation efforts in the United States. A food desert is an area where it is difficult for people to access affordable or quality food. They are most often in areas with high-poverty rates, whether urban or rural. Outside of poverty, other factors that impact food deserts are access to transportation (public or private) and hours of operation.

What is Their Impact?

Often in food deserts, there are many dollar stores, corner stores/bodegas, and fast food restaurants. These stores often sell highly processed foods for an extreme markup. For example, instant noodles may cost less than two dollars at a grocery store, but it may be closer to five dollars at a corner store. However, even though they are more expensive and offer less food, they are closer, which means less money and time spent on travel.

Combined with coupons, some fast food can feed an entire family for around $10, making them a relatively inexpensive choice that family member enjoys.

Considering the time spent getting to the store, coordinating travel, planning meals, cooking, and trying to fit it all into your limited free time, it’s easy to see why many chose to forgo the trek to the grocery store in general.

It is just easier on the soul to go to the store or restaurant that is a two-minute walk away- even if that means it isn’t the most nutrient dense.

How Can You Help?

Below are a few ways you can help alleviate the impact of food deserts.

  1. Establish a community garden.
  2. Start a community kitchen and food pantry.
  3. Begin assisting with ride coordination or offering to pick up groceries for families.
  4. Advocate for more public transportation.
  5. Consider asking local farms to aid and assist.


Like so many other things, many solutions are community-based. While these may be able to be started individually, they will flourish and get more traction when done communally! Since 2018, MVP of Buffalo has worked hard to heal our community. We strive to make our community safe for all and work within our community and with local leadership to make that happen. We host a wide array of events and keep our members updated on any events, drives, or important information regarding our community.

To join MVP of Buffalo in taking back our community, get in contact with us here.

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