African Heritage Food Co-op: The Answer to Food Apartheid!

New Location OPEN on Highland Ave in Niagara Falls

There was an abundance of love at the  historic grand opening of the African Heritage Food Co-op Saturday February 23 in Niagara Falls’ North End.  Residents welcomed Alex Wright, who, after establishing  the Co-op on Buffalo’s East side , expanded into Niagara Falls with a second location at 2616 Highland Avenue.  

Supporters and Patrons during Niagara Falls opening day

Wright is a living, breathing, active example of his motto      “Anything Less Than Ownership is Unacceptable.”

The opening  ceremony was  marked by  a Proclamation from Niagara Falls Mayor  Paul A. Dyster  who declared February 23 as National Frederick L. Brown Day. The historic significance of such a declaration was abundantly clear when it was learned that  the African Heritage Co-op’s new location was in the very building  where Brown and his wife, who were local entrepreneurs, opened  and ran F & A Grocery Store, the first Black owned grocery store for over 25 years.

Flag Raised New Location in Niagara Falls

“I’m overjoyed,” Brown’s daughter Cynthia Chaney said. “It’s been a long time coming…to see the fruits and vegetables come back into this building is a real blessing.” Co-op member and volunteer, Niagara falls native Kartika Carr was busy helping customers. “I feel awesome…I grew up around here…and people are excited…I’m excited!”she said.

At 39, Wright is a beacon of light in the Communities when it comes to entrepreneurship and he has strategically  made moves to create economic change in the Black Communities of WNY through the  African Heritage Food Co-op establishment.

“The whole purpose of this is to give folks in the community ownership and opportunity to live their best lives,” said Wright in a recent interview. He  noted that the lack of access to quality fresh food helps generate higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure in minority communities; issues similar to those that pushed him to begin the project in 2016 on Buffalo’s east side.

Niagara Falls Legislator Owen Steed was also on hand. Steed  has been in contact with Wright for an extended   period of  time to make the Highland Avenue  location a reality. “I’m really hoping this develops a culture here in Niagara Falls,” he said  “so that we take ownership of the highland community.” 

Local Resident Supporters of the Niagara Falls Co-Op Location

Wright is also working closely with Seth Piccirillo, the Department of Community Development director. and his team who also played a role getting the doors open by providing partial funding. “This is a really good day for the neighborhood and the city,” Seth told the Challenger.

 “One of the reasons we wanted to open this co-op with Alex is because the neighborhood is a food desert,” she continued. “This co-op can change that. … and in 6 months we are gonna contact the federal government and make sure this neighborhood is no longer designated a food desert because you buy into this.”Wright acknowledges that sentiment but prefers to refer to the area as being an example of  “food apartheid” due to what he describes as the historical and purposeful divestment of resources in Black and brown communities across the U.S.

They are all hopeful that the co-op could be a catalytic project for other development in the neighborhood.  For Wright, through education and by example he wants to use the co-op to work in concert with the North End residents and demonstrate the power of the dollar.  Wright is also realistic about the challenges of Black business when it comes to longevity and investment.

“That’s why we did a Co-op,… because a Co-op doesn’t depend on me and my children, a co-op depends on the community ….whether my son wants to be a grocer or not, it goes on, because somebody’s son or daughter will.”

The current membership is a one -time fee of $100 giving members access to shop at co-op price points and like any co-op the membership comes with the benefits of annual dividends provided at the end of the year that could boast a return  as high as  $100 back to members depending on their spending habits.

For Niagara Falls North End community like Buffalo’s east side, the African Heritage Food Co-op is a much needed resource for not only access to fresh farm to market  food options  but also an experience in learning how investment in your local grocery store  is essentially investment in yourself and future business development that will improve quality of live overall in our communities. L.H.

The African Heritage Food Co-op’s  Buffalo location, in the Niagara Frontier Food Terminal, 1430 Clinton St., will open March 9.

You can learn more about membership, shopping options and more on www.ahfcoop.com and follow them on facebook @ahfcbuffalo