CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — At Karimar Grocery in Franklin County today, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding and Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin announced that more than 100 projects, funding access for fresh food in low-income communities, have received grants through Pennsylvania’s $10 million Fresh Food Financing Initiative.
“There are three keys to food security — Is food available, is food affordable, and is food safe?” said Redding. “The Fresh Food Financing Initiative helps make ‘yes’ the answer to all three questions. Early in the pandemic, we were all shocked by the empty grocery store shelves. This program has given us the ability to offset the costs food retailers have incurred in making fresh, nutritious food available while safeguarding their employees and customers.”
The Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) was funded at $10 million through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and opened in July to for-profit, nonprofit, or cooperative entities including grocery stores, corner stores, convenience stores, neighborhood markets, bodegas, food hubs, mobile markets, farmers markets, on-farm markets, urban farms, and food aggregation centers with a direct connection to direct-to-consumer retail outlets.
To be eligible, more than 70 percent of sales were required to be from staple, perishable foods to consumers and the retailer must serve customers who live in a low-to-moderate income area. Applicants were also required to demonstrate limited food access as a result of COVID-19 or that direct-to-consumer retail expansion is necessary due to lost or disrupted markets. Eligible applicants were required to accept SNAP and WIC, or have plans to accept them through completion of the project.
“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the challenges that many Pennsylvanians face in accessing fresh, local food,” said Davin. “The Fresh Food Financing Initiative was developed to ensure that no one in our commonwealth will struggle to fill their pantry and the food supply chain will remain stable, whether during a crisis, emergency, or during times of normalcy.”
Karimar Grocery, a minority, woman-owned neighborhood store in Chambersburg, experienced increased demand for perishable and staple food products throughout the pandemic. Their $55,000 grant will fund the purchase of equipment – such as refrigerators, freezers, coolers, and a meat grinder – to allow them to store more fresh meat, dairy, and produce and will cover expenditures already made to create a safe, healthy shopping environment in the low-income, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community they serve.
“It is important to keep residents of the commonwealth safe and informed. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the Latino community, placing this population at a greater disadvantage,” said Luz B. Colón, executive director to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs. “Programs like the Fresh Food Financing Initiative help secure food resources to our minority communities and ensure that it will reach the families that need it the most.”
The $10 million FFFI grant program funded 115 projects in 39 counties. The projects fund expenses related to PPE and other in-store COVID-19 mitigation efforts, expansions, refrigeration, online marketing materials, mobile market enhancements, and more.
A full list of funded projects can be found online. Applicants could apply for impacts related to COVID-19 incurred between March 1, 2020 and November 30, 2020, such as:
- Higher operating costs related to cleaning and social distancing requirements, including costs related to outside contracting associated with managing social distancing, limited occupancy, and cleaning;
- Infrastructure improvements, including renovation, new construction, or adaptive reuse directly related to COVID-19;
- Equipment purchases that improve the availability of quality fresh food, such as additional refrigeration to manage volume, or personal protective equipment such as plexiglass dividers;
- Inventory (higher cost of goods, higher transportation or delivery costs, or procuring Pennsylvania-grown produce, meat, and dairy products, or loss of product);
- Innovative food access technology such as mobile or pop-up markets, or mobile EBT reader technology;
- Costs to expand access to Pennsylvania grown or processed produce, dairy, and meat products or provide stable market access for Pennsylvania farmers that have lost or limited markets; and
- Other one-time or increased expenses incurred related to COVID-19.
For more information on the Fresh Food Financing Initiative or about the Wolf Administration’s efforts surrounding food security, visit agriculture.pa.gov. For information as it relates to agriculture during COVID-19 mitigation in Pennsylvania visit agriculture.pa.gov/COVID. For the most accurate, timely information related to health in Pennsylvania, visit on.pa.gov/coronavirus.
–Shannon Powers, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture