Food deserts are still a problem for certain areas on Buffalo’s East Side and Niagara Falls. Alexander Wright, co-founder of two new soon to open African Heritage Food Co-op’s, is looking to make a larger impact. WBFO’s Nick Lippa reports.
The African Heritage Food Co-op has been serving Buffalo’s East Side since 2016, but they’ll soon be more visible. This upcoming Saturday, February 23, a new location will open on 2616 Highland Avenue in Niagara Falls.
“We’re even looking for other places to source from so people can get fresh, healthy, good clean food at an affordable price,” said Wright. “We’re not looking to upsell you to the point where we hurt you because it’s not about just profits. It’s about the community and health and just doing the right thing the right way.”
Wright has been working to bring fresh produce to underserved communities for years now—something that’s about to become a larger reality. But it wasn’t without its road bumps. On March 9, another location will open on 1430 Clinton Street, Suite 98 in the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal. You’ll see the African Heritage trailer with Marcus Garvey on the front of it. Originally, Wright wanted to open it closer to the heart of Buffalo’s East Side, but complications arose with their potential location.
“With the place in the Fruit Belt, the owners had one price and then we gave a price and then all of a sudden the goal posts kept moving. We’re just not in a place to play games,” he said. “We wanted to get a place that was deteriorating, turn it in to something beautiful, give jobs to folks, but at the end of the day people have property rights. We couldn’t make them sell it to us.”
So Wright has moved ahead with a plan to stay on Clinton for three years and build up revenue so they can later buy a place deeper in East Buffalo.
“No road blocks are going to stop us. The community is here. The community is backing and supporting us and as long as we have people who are backing and supporting us, we are going to be here forever,” he said.
And while they work their way back deeper to the East Side, Wright said they have resources to reach those in need.
“We always deliver and delivery is always free to our seniors and our physically disabled. We are still going to cater to the food deserts and the victims of food apartheid,” Wright said.
“We are going to have fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price. Not only just to have access, but to have ownership as a community as our old food system. The people we employ are all from the neighborhoods that we’re in. We are very very excited about bringing this piece of, not only health, but hope to the neighborhoods we’re in,” he said.
According to Wright, it’s a different model from something like Lexington Co-op because of the demographic they are catering to.
“But it’s a similar model in that a lot of them started from small or nothing, and then they built to this,” he said. “So it’s similar in that regard, but it’s like a splash. I always say that we are Lexington Co-op meets Price Rite.”
Wright said their goal is to get 200 people spending $15 a month.
“If you can do that, we will be successful. We will be able to hire people full time. We have currently part time staff. We’ll be able to hire them full time and give real job security in our community.”
Opening hours to start will be Wednesday through Sunday from 11 AM-8PM.