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Canisius College to establish new community garden with support from local grant organizations


 The empty lot on Jefferson Avenue will soon blossom into a community garden thanks to Canisius College and its partners. Photo courtesy of Canisius College

The New Buffalo Institute at Canisius College will develop a 20-bed community garden in a vacant lot 1635 Jefferson Ave., with recent support from three local granting organizations. Plans call for a community-engaged effort to cultivate a fresh vegetable garden and create a healthy gathering space for neighbors of the college. A cross-section of local residents, block clubs, youth groups, and members of the faith community will build the garden, and plant, manage and tend to the vegetables throughout the growing season with support from Canisius College students. The cultivated food will provide fresh produce to the neighboring community. Vegetables harvested will also be donated to the food pantry at the Upper Room Church of God in Christ.

“While the Western New York region suffers from poor health outcomes, the chosen area of this community garden is particularly unhealthy,” explains Mary Rockwell, Ph.D., director of the New Buffalo Institute at Canisius College. “There is an absence of a food system that makes affordable, culturally relevant and healthy food available to residents on the East Side. This new project will activate empty lots that have been underutilized and replace them with a vibrant, safe, community garden and social hub where fresh food can be grown, healthy living tips shared and social connectivity re-established.”

Canisius College is loaning the vacant lots at Jefferson Avenue for the development of the community gardens, which is set to get underway this month. The initiative is receiving significant support from three local organizations:

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Spark grant awarded The New Buffalo Institute $4,000 for the garden project. Funds will support the purchase of soil, seedlings and garden tools. BNMC Spark is a micro-grant program, which showcases creative ideas and strategies that support neighborhood partners, and promote access to healthy food and active living, as well as neighborhood beautification.

HOPE Buffalo awarded the Institute a $3,000 grant for the purchase and construction of raised beds for the garden. HOPE Buffalo a Project of CAI advocates for optimal teen health and well being. Grants awarded by the organization target initiatives that promote positive youth development, engagement and adolescent health in the Buffalo community.

A Love Your Block mini-grant, in the amount of $1,500, will enable organizers to purchase organic soil and compost for the community garden. The mini-grant program awards small grants to neighborhood-based organizations for volunteer-led beautification projects that reduce blight. The grant program is funded by Cities of Service and Cities RISE, and administered by the city of Buffalo’s Division of Citizen Services.

“This project will beautify a vacant lot and provide a destination for community and church gatherings, which will literally be sown into the health and wellness of the community,” said Pastor Daniel L. Benning of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ.

The Upper Room Church of God in Christ is one of several community partners involved with the community garden initiative. Others are the city of Buffalo, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Freedom Gardens, the Hamlin Park Taxpayers Association, HOPE Buffalo a Project of CAI, NeuWater Associates and Senior Housing at 1490 Jefferson.

Canisius College currently maintains a cooperative community garden at 1032 Lafayette Avenue. The initiative is directed by Canisius faculty members and cultivated in partnership with neighbors from the Oxford Square Block Club.


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