WNYEA 2015 Congress

Published on December 22nd, 2015 | by Bradley Cantor

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Innovation Spotlight: MAP

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Written by Shannon Trubatch

For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1 ½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. In the US alone, over thirty percent of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. As the climate continues to change, we face the possibility of increased crop losses from new pests and diseases, as well as extreme heat and droughts.

In the face of climate change and a broken food system, people around the globe are seeking solutions to create a new sustainable and equitable system that would restore our natural resources, such as soil and water, while also reducing the use of fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions.

“We’re at a crisis point in terms of the impact [climate change] is having on our communities and on our world, especially for low-income areas and people of color. Issues of disparity and injustice that happen regardless are even more highlighted when you add climate change to the equation,” says Rebekah Williams, MAP’s Youth Education Director “And our global food system is reliant on the very things that are causing climate change.”

Massachusetts Avenue Project, or MAP, founded on Buffalo’s West Side, is an organization working to change our local food system here in Western New York by creating a sustainable and economically viable model of urban agriculture, while also creating economic opportunities for young people and organizing the community to advocate for land use and food policy that meets their needs.

In 2003, MAP founded their Growing Green Program to address the growing land vacancy, high youth MAP!unemployment and food security needs of the community.

Today, their urban farm, found on Massachusetts Ave, consists of 13 lots, covering over an acre of reclaimed vacant lots. The farm is home to a 1000 gallon rainwater catchment system, floral and perennial garden beds, two greenhouses, urban chickens, a vermiculture composting system, and an aquaponics system raising fish and plants in a symbiotic system.

Small urban farms like MAP’s generally use more sustainable farming methods, says Williams,  such as building up the soil, crop rotations, and plant diversity, which is the opposite of Big Agriculture.

In 2013 alone, MAP was responsible for producing and distributing over 15,000 pounds of organic produce, including 72 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs and fish, as well as composting nearly 500,000 pounds of food waste, removing it from the municipal waste stream.

MAP2MAP also works to influence food policy change in the Buffalo area, ensuring Buffalo green code includes zoning codes for urban agriculture so that more urban, local farms are able to do their work without having to jump through hurdles. They’ve also been instrumental in creating the Food Policy Council of Buffalo and Erie County, focused on strengthening local food systems and making sure all people have access to healthy, affordable food.

Through their urban agriculture program, MAP has provided green job training to over 400 inner city youth, increasing their knowledge of social and environmental justice, policy change, youth organizing, how to grow, process and market organic food, as well as the impact food has on their health and their community. Through this training, MAP hopes to inspire and inform young people about what they can do to make a positive impact on their communities and on the future of our planet.

When discussing the role of nonprofits and government agencies in addressing climate change and reducing carbon, MAP3WIlliams stresses the importance of support on the ground level for community changes.

”Education is critical. Support is critical. And most importantly, understanding,” says Williams. “We need to accept what different people have to contribute, and build an environment of mutual respect. One in which we can learn from each other and highlight all stories.”

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