BUFFALO — The Western New York COVID-19 Community Response Fund is moving forward with an initiative to improve food security in Western New York.

Regionally coordinated planning is underway, with Food Future WNY including more than 100 partners representing the entire spectrum of the food system in the region.

SCALE Inc., led by Anthony Flaccavento, has been named to lead the nine-county effort stretching from Chautauqua County to Monroe County. Southern Tier West Development Foundation has taken on the role of fiscal sponsor and project co-lead.

“The ultimate goal of this new effort is to tackle entrenched challenges in new ways and to emerge from COVID-19 with a regional food system that is more effective, efficient and resilient,” said Kimberly LaMendola, regional development coordinator for the Southern Tier West Regional Planning & Development Board.

“Farmers, producers and processors will be more independent and less reliant on large, centralized hubs,” she said. “Families will have easier access to healthy and affordable groceries and we will create new food-related jobs that contribute to the economic development of the region.”

Flaccavento, president of SCALE, said, “As a farmer myself, I know how challenging it can be to manage the land well, help local communities eat better and still make a little profit.”

He said the initiative is about developing a strategy for shifting the region’s food system to one that is more equitable and resilient, builds wealth in rural and urban communities and promotes health and a sustainable environment.

Planning kicks off with a survey on the needs and abilities regarding food distribution in the region. The planning stage is expected to take approximately 18 months.

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