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One of the many lasting impacts of the mass shooting that took place in East Buffalo last weekend is the fact that the longer the supermarket Tops remains closed, the longer a food desert re-emerges.
Tops supermarket opened up in 2003 to feed a mostly Black community that previously had to travel to other communities to buy nutritious food or settle for less nutritious options from corner stores and gas stations.
Local organizations and churches are stepping up to meet the needs of the community by setting up a makeshift food bank not far from Tops’ location. The Buffalo Community Fridge received enough monetary donations that it has distributed some funds to other local organizations.
Black Community Hit Hardest by Food Deserts
The longer Tops remains closed during a police investigation following the White supremacist shooting last weekend, the longer a grieving community will feel the nutritional impact in their homes.
The USDA defines a food desert by the following two aspects: a poverty rate that is greater than or equal to 20 percent — or a median family income that does not exceed 80 percent statewide — and at least 500 people or 33 percent of the population are located more than 1 mile from the nearest supermarket or large grocery store. By those metrics, north Tulsa also qualifies as an urban food desert.
“Knowing the density of African Americans on this side of the city and going to that Tops knowing that this side of the city is a food desert was intentional, it was deliberate, and it was evil,” said Buffalo City Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo. “And we know that because he did reconnaissance the day before to ensure that there were Black folks there.”
Tops said Wednesday its store remains under active police investigation. Once that’s done, “we will have a team assess next steps with the intention of rebuilding and repairing the store for the community in as short a period of time as possible,” it said.
Organizations have gathered nearly everyday to hand out clothes, food, or to take a moment to talk to neighbors. On Monday, more than 650 people were given food in an eight-hour period.
“There’s still a lot of residents that still have to be fed,” George Johnson, the president of Buffalo United Front, told NPR. “With the market being closed, they can’t get their groceries so we tried to provide different things for them.”