Tops Markets Was An Oasis In The Middle Of A Buffalo Food Desert

A food desert is an area in which it is difficult for residents to access healthy and/or affordable food. Food deserts, says Medical News Today, are also characterized by poverty rates above 20% and a minimum of 33% of residents living relatively far from a grocery store. In a city, that means a mile, while in rural areas, that means as little as 10 miles.

As of 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that more than 6,500 communities across the country — more than 23 million Americans — live in these food deserts. More recent censuses reported the shocking news that food insecurity affects as much as 30% of some communities, particularly those consisting largely of people of color.

Buffalo, New York, is one such community stricken by food insecurity and lack of access to the healthy variety of products so many of us take for granted. Unfortunately, Buffalo's desperately needed grocery store, Tops Markets, is closed following a mass shooting over the weekend. 

Buffalo's Tops Market continues to meet residents' needs

Ten Buffalo residents were killed and three others wounded in a mass shooting at Tops Markets on Saturday. According to CNN, 11 of the 13 victims were Black, causing authorities to label the attack a "racist hate crime."

Tops Markets came to Buffalo in 2003 when the area was considered a food desert. Since then, the grocery store has been helping the neighborhood fight food insecurity. Although the store is now temporarily closed while its employees receive counseling and police investigate, Buffalo News says that Tops Markets is still helping residents as best it can.

For the duration of the store's closing, Tops Markets is providing transportation for residents to other grocery stores, as well as donating food to local organizations. Others have launched GoFundMe fundraisers to help pay for medical and funeral expenses, and Buffalo Community Fridge is accepting donations of both fresh and nonperishable foods (via Facebook).