RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) announces $175,000 in grant awards today from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund (VFAIF) program. The VFAIF grants were awarded to two non-profit organizations and two businesses to increase retail access to fresh foods in underserved parts of the state.
“VFAIF grants increase access to fresh food in underserved communities, while helping to create opportunities for neighboring farms and sustainable, locally owned businesses and community organizations,” said Joseph Guthrie, VDACS Commissioner.
Established in 2019, the VFAIF Program awards grants of up to $50,000 to support the development or expansion of grocery stores, small food retailers, and innovative food retail projects that increase food access in low-income, low-access communities. VFAIF funded projects must have a retail component, accept federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and participate in the Virginia Fresh Match nutrition incentives program. Virginia Fresh Match helps people access healthy and affordable fresh food by doubling the value of their SNAP dollars when buying Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables.
The following projects are receiving funding from this round of VFAIF awards:
Deerhaven Farm, a small, minority-owned farm, will receive a $25,000 grant to create a community produce stand in Surry County. The community produce stand will provide an additional fresh food retail option in a USDA-defined food desert. Deerhaven currently sells produce through community supported agriculture boxes and at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. The farm provides local jobs and training opportunities for community youth.
Jon Henry General Store
Jon Henry General Store will receive a $50,000 grant to create a plant and produce pavilion to meet increased demand. The ADA-accessible pavilion will have a dedicated space for plant retail in the spring and fall seasons and serve as an open-air produce farm market outside of the growing seasons. The pavilion will have dedicated space for public programming with SNAP Education and include cooking and health demonstrations. The business will use part of the funding to hire multi-lingual staff and to continue the bus token program, which increases accessibility for individuals without personal transportation.
Market Central and Bread and Roses
To address barriers to fresh food and economic opportunity, Market Central and Bread and Roses will receive a $50,000 grant to develop food businesses and increase access to fresh food in Charlottesville, VA. In an underserved area of the city, the two non-profits will develop and equip a community-led market and employ residents to serve as community ambassadors. In addition, Bread and Roses will focus on food business development and training by offering workshops on creating and operating food-based businesses. The grant will also fund a SNAP Coordinator to keep program service providers and clients up to date on SNAP eligibility and funding changes and expand outreach to residents who experience food insecurity.
River Street Education Inc.
River Street Education Inc., a community-led enterprise operating mobile markets throughout Petersburg, VA, will receive a $50,000 grant to expand the POP! Mobile Farm Market. River Street Education aggregates local produce and food products and provides them to the Petersburg community via mobile farm markets in underserved neighborhoods and through the Market at Petersburg Public Library. The grant will fund the purchase of a refrigerated vehicle which will enable the non-profit to conduct six additional mobile markets weekly.
The next VFAIF grant round will open in 2024. Please visit the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund Grants webpage for more information.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS