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Federal grant given to WEDI to help boost healthy eating at West Side Bazaar

PRESS RELEASE

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A $375,000 federal grant received by the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, Inc. (WEDI) will help increase healthy food choices and strengthen the local food network by expanding and enhancing programs at the West Side Bazaar. The effort will strengthen connections with local farmers, provide healthy cooking classes, and boost environmentally sustainable practices at the Bazaar.

"WEDI's work at the West Side Bazaar is far reaching in our community, providing residents with nutritious food options and entrepreneurs with an outlet to learn and grow," said Congressman Brian Higgins.  "The award of this highly competitive federal grant demonstrates the confidence placed in WEDI's good work, and will allow for expansion of a proven, community-based business model."

WEDI is one of 24 community food projects and nine planning projects across the country to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and
Agriculture (NIFA). The competitive grant program increases food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.

"I'm happy to see the West Side Bazaar receive funding that will help them to continue their efforts to serve the community and help to empower a diverse group of people to start and grow their businesses," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan.  "I look forward to seeing the Bazaar grow, and hope that growth will occur on Grant Street."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz added, "WEDI has had a tremendously positive impact on the health and well-being of Buffalo's West Side residents and this competitive grant will further their mission, expanding programs at the West Side Bazaar and building connections between more people and neighborhoods.  WEDI is a key community partner and plays an important role in creating a more diverse, sustainable, and connected Erie County."

The grant also is part of an initiative to expand the West Side Bazaar, currently on Grant Street just south of West Ferry. The business incubator with nine restaurateurs and nine retailers has become so popular that it is bursting at the seams. No location for a new Bazaar has been finalized, but WEDI is committed to staying on the West Side of Buffalo.

The Bazaar empowers low-income entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses that serve affordable, socially relevant cuisines to a surrounding community that is culturally rich yet economically distressed. The Bazaar represents a synthesis of the following: a small business incubator, a startup accelerator, a community meeting space, and a public market.

WEDI was established in 2006 to improve the quality of life for the people of Buffalo's West Side, and it has recently expanded its service area to the entire city. WEDI's mission is to empower economically disadvantaged people, and it has accomplished much during its 12 years as a not-for-profit organization. Its business training and microloan programs have demonstrated that character-, and community-based lending and training, can ignite grassroots economic growth. The West Side Bazaar has become a staple in the community, and WEDI's after-school education programs have become models in offering personalized attention as a best practice to prepare English-language learners to reach their full potential.

The West Side Bazaar is open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.