BFI Statement on Racial Terrorism and Good Food Access

May 27, 2022
By Berkeley Food Institute

Earlier this month, on May 14, the community of Buffalo, New York experienced a mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market grocery store. Ten victims were killed and three were injured by a shooter motivated by white supremacist views to seek out a majority-Black supermarket and attack it during a busy shopping period.

We at BFI were horrified to learn of this news, which follows a sickening trend of gun violence and hate in this country. While no instance of racial violence has a place in our society, this one was at a grocery store, making it immediately a food justice issue.

A supermarket like Tops is the place where most of us experience routine interaction with our food system. Grocery stores are where we go in order to provide for our families, feed our children, and prepare meals for friends and neighbors. We go to grocery stories to nourish ourselves and be in community with one another. They are the cornerstone of our neighborhoods and communities. And as has been well-documented, Tops was not just any grocery store, but one that had been hard-won by a Black community that was redlined, excluded, and denied access to good food for many years.

But in recent years, grocery stores are increasingly being used to target Black and Brown communities. In 2018, two Black shoppers at a Kroger in Kentucky were killed by a white man who had tried and failed to get inside a predominantly Black church. In 2019, a far-right gunman wrote a racist manifesto and drove 11 hours across Texas to target a Walmart in El Paso, killing 23 people and injuring 23 others. In 2021, a man was shot at Cup Foods in Minneapolis, at the same intersection where George Floyd was murdered the year before.

While these attacks represent the most extreme examples of racial violence, they point to an ideology that is nauseatingly close to the mainstream. Recent studies from the Associated Press and National Research Opinion Center found that “1 in 5 American adults believe in at least a couple major tenets of the replacement theory,” further fueling misinformation and hate.

At the same time, people are being further concentrated into areas experiencing high food insecurity due to a variety of social and economic inequities and injustices. The shooting in Buffalo was not an isolated event. Accepted systemic levels of oppression and hate led to this moment.

Our country spends over $300 billion annually on domestic policing and over $740 billion annually on the Department of Defense military spending, as supposed bids for public safety. Yet domestic terrorism is notably overlooked, especially the festering cancer of white nationalism that has been openly supported by mainstream political and entertainment figures. Our citizens are not safe while shopping for groceries on what should be a peaceful weekend. We are the only nation that can boast more guns than people. Something is deeply wrong with our priorities and our strategies.

Reading and witnessing events like this can be traumatizing and discouraging. However, there is always something we can do. Vote. Speak up. Examine and expose white supremacy. If you are white, work to educate and heal your friends and relatives from this deadly disease. Educate people of all ages on the history of racial violence in the United States and our roles in stopping it. Donate to Black-led and other food justice organizations. Continue to pay attention to where our food comes from. Provide food to those that need it. Hold news organizations and elected leaders accountable. Address gun violence, as victim Katherine Massey did during her lifetime. Take this seriously.

We are forever committed to transforming our food system by empowering our leaders of today and tomorrow with justice- and equity-centered research and education for the public about our food system.

If you are looking for ways to support organizations working to end food apartheid and violence, the University at Buffalo’s Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab has compiled a list of Black-led organizations in Buffalo doing this work. That list includes:

Researchers from the UB Food Lab also published a must-read op-ed in Civil Eats, highlighting the work of these local organizations. According to the authors, repairing food apartheid in Buffalo will require community investment, not short-term charity that ebbs and flows with media attention. “To counter structural racism in the food system, food-related infrastructure must be designed, owned, and operated by East Buffalo entrepreneurs, with dividends that go back to East Buffalo.”

Here are some organizations tackling food and racial injustice around the country, including the Bay Area:

Here is a list of resources for further information on food apartheid, food justice, barriers and solutions to good food access:

For those in need of supportive resources:


Charisma Acey
Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning
Faculty Director, BFI

David D. Ackerly
Dean, Rausser College of Natural Resources
Executive Committee Chair, BFI

Timothy Bowles
Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
Co-Associate Faculty Director, BFI

Scott Chang-Fleeman
Administrative and Finance Director, BFI

Sharon Daraphonhdeth
Director, Student Environmental Resource Center
Executive Committee Member, BFI

Bob Epstein
Co-Founder, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)
Executive Committee Member, BFI

Nina F. Ichikawa
Executive Director, BFI

Cheryl Lew
Culinary Faculty, Laney College
Owner, Montclair Baking and Consulting
Advisory Council Member, BFI

Mas Masumoto
Farmer, Masumoto Family Farm
Advisory Council Member, BFI

Susana Matias
Cooperative Extension Specialist, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology
Co-Associate Faculty Director, BFI

Nathalie Muñoz
Administrative Coordinator, BFI

Jesús Nazario
PhD Student, Department of Ethnic Studies
Graduate Student Fellow/Executive Committee Member, BFI

Austin Price
Communications Coordinator, BFI

Lekeisha Simpson
Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator, BFI

Marion B. Standish
Vice president, Enterprise Programs, California Endowment
Advisory Council Member, BFI

Ann Thrupp
Director, California Food Is Medicine Coalition
Founder, Down-to-Earth Innovations
Advisory Council Member, Former Executive Director, BFI

David C. Wilson
Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy
Executive Committee Member, BFI

Background on this statement: Members of BFI staff felt compelled to publish this statement of concern and offer resources. We worked in consultation with UC Berkeley DEIB consultant Bryant Smith. Sign on was optional and voluntary.