Solutions for a Brighter Future

The WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, a coordinated and regional philanthropic response to the pandemic, is continuing to monitor immediate needs but is focusing on strengthening key systems with new collaborative solutions through the Moving Forward Together initiative. We wanted to share updates on three of the Moving Forward Together efforts.

Connecting Food Systems

Ensuring that everyone has access to good quality food — and that we support our local producers—is the focus of a regionally coordinated effort called Food Future WNY.

Facilitated by the WNY Foundation, Food Future WNY is uniting stakeholders, representing diverse aspects and perspectives of the region’s food system, to create solutions to this critical issue. A newly-established regional council is working with a national team of food system experts to address long-term food insecurity in Western New York. The group has identified key areas to focus on and is beginning to engage farmers and food entrepreneurs in the planning process through a survey and community conversations.

Visit to learn more.

 Achieving Digital Equity and Inclusion

Our service delivery system has completely changed during the pandemic to one that is far more reliant on virtual and electronic communications. The Fund has convened an initiative, facilitated by the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, to bring together over 55 stakeholders, similar to the food system effort, to collectively work on solutions to bridge the digital divide through equity and inclusion in both urban and rural areas of Western New York.

Because this has been such a critical need, there are many efforts underway in our community to address digital equity and this group is working to bridge those efforts so we aren’t duplicating work and our community is able to take full advantage of some of the state and federal funding available to address this problem. This effort is regional and there are very different needs being identified in the urban and rural communities that all need to be understood, recognized and addressed.

Encouraging New Ideas

One year ago, a Request for Ideas (RFI) process was launched to surface collaborative solutions from nonprofit leaders to address challenges our community is facing. We are incredibly encouraged by the progress being made to move some of those ideas forward in 2021. Here are examples of two:

  • In early March, the Osborne Association and the Buffalo Police Department announced the Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents Project to develop and enact a child-sensitive policing policy, protocols, and training to minimize the potential trauma for children from parental arrest and other police enforcement activities. Osborne and the Buffalo Police Department will now work to train and support more than 750 officers and staff in these child-sensitive protocols. A new consortium of WNY youth-serving agencies is advising the project and working to provide trauma-informed follow-up services to children and families. This innovative training project was funded by the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund and AT&T. The intention here is to provide a model that can be use by other law enforcement agencies across New York State and beyond.
  • Following a successful planning process funded by RFI process where key data was collected to support the project, the Orleans Digital Literacy mentorship project has been awarded an implementation grant from the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund to further the digital literacy and ability to access digital resources for a variety of sectors and audiences increasing equity, collaboration, and furthering systems change in our community. Community mentors will now begin one-on-one and small group training to ensure residents learn how to use their technology and the internet. A public awareness campaign will also be launching to educate residents on the importance of digital literacy.

To date, nearly $1.8 million has been awarded in grants to move 14 solutions forward either to planning or implementation with more than 300 partners.

To learn more about the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund, visit