When you think of a food pantry, you don’t tend to think of a neighborhood food market. That’s why, when West Side Community Services was tasked to come up with a concept for a food distribution center on the West Side, they decided to go beyond the typical requirements. The result? A culturally appropriate, market-style food pantry, and health and wellness gathering space.
And why not? Just because food pantries have pretty much been the same routine undertakings for years, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be something more. I’m not knocking the traditional food pantry (they are amazing, and needed). I’m simply calling attention to an elevated food pantry concept that addresses more needs of the community.
It was West Side Community Services (WSCS) Executive Director Crystal Selk who originally came up with the idea to take the pantry to the next level. Not only would the healthy food be free to those in need, there would also be free programming, such as yoga, nutrition classes, and an artisan market. Many of these offerings would be catered to the refugee communities, including Burmese and Somali.
The “beyond food” distristribution center is being called Provisions 139 (located at 139 Vermont Street @ Fargo).
“We are excited to officially introduce Provisions 139 to the neighborhood,” said Selk. “We have seen a substantial increase in need since the start of the pandemic, and coupled with the increase of the refugee and immigrant population calling the West Side home, we felt it was our duty and mission to extend our services beyond our walls and provide our neighbors with access to healthy food in a unique and dignified manner. Provisions 139 is more than just a food distribution site, it is a place for the community to gather and celebrate the many unique cultural contributions our west side neighbors have to offer.”
Partnering businesses and organizations involved in the project include D’Youville’s D’Lish Kitchen, Providence Farm Collective, and United Healthcare, which is providing pantry staples and other household items. United Healthcare is also putting together custom pantry kits, filled with food, along with recipe cards and pantry schedules.
Funding for the start-up was provided by the Garman Family Foundation, to address food insecurity in the Niagara District and the Lower West Side. Much of this food, including locally grown produce, breads, and other provisions, will be sourced according to the needs of the residents, many of whom are new to Buffalo.
According to the University of Buffalo Regional Institute (2019), 62% of West Side residents rely on WIC and SNAP benefits to meet monthly food needs, and lack of money to buy food is the top concern of low-income residents in this part of Buffalo.
Provisions 139 is answering the call from community members, to address these concerns.
Now this is a corner market that we can all get behind.
Provisions 139 is open weekly on Wednesdays from 2-4:00pm, and monthly for health and wellness events. The start-up is partnering with other local organizations to offer free and unique programs, as well as pop-up pantry days with Friends of Night People. For community members interested in supporting Provisions 139 with financial or in-kind gifts, they are asked to contact West Side Community Services at 716-884-6616.